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Saturday November 23rd, 2013

Posted at 3:00pm

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Just over a week after the town of Leamington was devestated by news that the Heinz plant would close, a group has been formed to look at at how to reinvent the heart of the town.

Earlier this afternoon, organizers draped a large “Leamington Stands Strong” on the town’s iconic tomato — an effort to encourage the community to buy local products and support local businesses.

Organizer Katie Omstead says Tthat she wrote an open letter to Warren Buffet and the top executives of 3G Capital the day that the closure of Heinz was announced. Inspired by the many personal stories and positive suggestions she received in response to the letter, Katie and her husband Matthew Olewski teamed up with Tom and Sue Omstead to put the ideas into action.

“Since the founding of Leamington Stands Strong, it has been whirlwind of positive ideas and community support. Leamington Stands Strong has already received support from local businesses, the Leamington District Secondary School woodshop class, and community volunteers, to help launch the movement. We can’t wait for more community members and local businesses to jump on board!” says Omstead.

The group says that local help is needed for upcoming events including a team to march in Leamington’s Christmas Parade on November 30th. Two large banners with the group’s logo have already been designed and donated by Patty Kristy at The Graphic Gourmet, and Joe Miller at Chapman Signs.

The organization is hoping to get some familiar faces to carry the banner including local tomato farmers, Heinz employees, and Stewie the Tomato.

Leamington Stands Strong is also in the process of creating bumper stickers and shopping bags with the same slogan. The first goal, according to organizers is to spread the message, while the end goal is to get more local products onto store shelves and restaurant menus.

“I think people are more aware than ever that a dollar spent locally enriches our friends and neighbours, and strengthens our community” says Tom Omstead. “I experienced a positive rebuilding story in Canmore, Alberta, and I want to help ensure that the same success story happens in Leamington. There are so many amazing products from Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent to discover!”

The Leamington Stands Strong Facebook page was launched this afternoon. Organizers say you can join the movement as an individual or local business by liking the page and sharing it on Facebook.

If you have time, skills or money to donate to the organization, you can send a message to the Facebook page or email [email protected]

Photos by ‘Captured by Carly Butler.’

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