Louie Bricolas, owner of Gilbert’s Lodge, stands outside of the U.S. Coast Guard station in St. Clair Shores after delivering pizza and salad to members working without a paycheck during the government shutdown Jan. 21.

Louie Bricolas, owner of Gilbert’s Lodge, stands outside of the U.S. Coast Guard station in St. Clair Shores after delivering pizza and salad to members working without a paycheck during the government shutdown Jan. 21.

Photo by Kristyne Demske

St. Clair Shores restaurant creates challenge to help U.S. Coast Guard members

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 21, 2019

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Louie Bricolas spends much of his summer boating on Lake St. Clair.

“These guys do a phenomenal job on the water,” said the owner of Gilbert’s Lodge, while standing outside the U.S. Coast Guard station in St. Clair Shores Jan. 21.

Thirty-one days into the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, Bricolas said that he just wanted to help his neighbors who weren’t getting paychecks during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22.

“It’s the least we can do,” he said. “I wish we could help them more.”

Gilbert’s Lodge manager Flip Ulrich said that a customer, Tom Cleaver of the We Are Here Foundation, had mentioned that he would likely be coming back soon to buy lunch for the members of the Coast Guard who were working without receiving paychecks during the shutdown.

“These poor men and women are working for free,” Cleaver said.

“I said, ‘Hey, we’d like to get involved with that. Why don’t we provide the lunch?’” Ulrich said. “Maybe we can start something here.”

Bricolas delivered antipasto salads and pizzas free of charge to the members of the U.S. Coast Guard Jan. 21.

Gilbert’s Lodge, 22335 Harper Ave., put out a challenge to other restaurants in St. Clair Shores, Harrison Township and the Grosse Pointes to schedule free lunch delivery to the U.S. Coast Guard, 24802 Jefferson Ave., during the shutdown.

“They keep our waterway safe. They do a lot of good work for the city of St. Clair Shores,” Ulrich said. “We thought it would be fun to get involved with the community and pay it forward.”

Chef and South Lake High School culinary arts teacher Darrel Shepherd said that when he heard of the efforts of Bricolas and Cleaver, he wanted to get involved.

He and culinary arts assistant Marsha Salome decided that the best way to do that was to coordinate a food drive to help members of the Coast Guard receive food for dinner.

“After we collect food (and) gift cards from the community, our bistro team will create dinners to bring to the men and women who are affected by the shutdown,” Shepherd said in an email interview last week. “Growing up in the city of St. Clair Shores, we are all aware of how big a part of our community the Coast Guard is.

“I want to support them as best I can, so preparing meals in the South Lake Bistro kitchen and delivering them seemed like the best route for us.”

Shepherd said that South Lake Bistro is accepting donations of nonperishable food and gift cards for food that he and his culinary students will prepare and serve. Donations can be dropped off in the main office of South Lake High School, 21900 E. Nine Mile Road in St. Clair Shores, during school hours.

While Coast Guard members expressed their appreciation for the food and all the support they have received from the community, officers and other members of the guard stationed in St. Clair Shores were unable to comment for the story.

Master Chief Alan Haraf, with U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs District 9, said last week that although members missed their first paycheck as a result of the shutdown Jan. 15, morale is still high and the active-duty men and women of the Coast Guard are still focused on their mission of protecting life and property, including search and rescue, port security, law enforcement and environmental response.

Haraf said that there has been an outpouring of support across the country for the Coast Guard.

“Overall, I think the outpouring from communities, whether it’s, in this case, the restaurant providing meals or community organizations ... people donating to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program ... it’s most appreciated, to say the least,” he said. “Our folks are very humble, and I think it shows the bilateral relationship and the mutual support that exists in those communities.”

The Coast Guard was fully funded through Dec. 31, Haraf said. Coast Guard members will get their back pay when the government reopens.

He said that the families of Coast Guard members are also very appreciative of the support from communities across the region.

“People understand what’s happening and want to do everything they can to support and help out,” Haraf said.

In issuing the challenge, Ulrich said that it was “all in fun,” but she thought that it would be great if other local businesses stepped up to help.

For more information on how to donate food through South Lake Bistro, visit www.southlakebistro.weebly.com or visit the South Lake Bistro Facebook page.

Editor’s note: It was announced Jan. 25 that an agreement was reached to temporarily reopen the federal government.