By Rachel Holt

QUINCY (CBS) – It started with lasagna dinners for friends, mostly restaurant workers, who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

When Nicky Bandera started Project Paulie on March 24, she originally thought she would make 20 lasagna dinners. She was far off. Nine months later, she’s helped distribute 2,500 meals to those in need.

“My family owns an Italian deli on Cape Cod. I kind of grew up whenever there were issues you would bring people food,” Bandera said.

“We were making them all out of our house,” she said. “We were waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning every day. Making fresh sauce. Fresh lasagna. Because for us- we were like if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it the way we would cook it for our family.”

Nicky Bandera (WBZ-TV)

Sophia Kelley was one of the recipients of Project Paulie’s homemade meals. “I had a really interesting start to COVID,” Kelley said. “My dad was one of the first 2,000 people to pass from COVID.”

She added, “We received a lasagna from Nicky. It was just a beautiful kind of highlight to a day and made an otherwise crummy time kind of smiley.”

Now Nicky is transitioning from making lasagna to selling merchandise- with the proceeds going to different organizations. Bandera said, “We raised $5,000 for December alone that’s going to go out January 1 that’s going to go out to all of our charities so we’re really pretty proud of that.”

Jenna Rehrig was a bar manager in March and suddenly found herself unemployed. Right away, she received a lasagna from Nicky and Project Paulie.

“I’m one of many people that at the beginning was just like, ‘yea, I want a lasagna’ before I really realized what it was and then just watching it grow from there has been such a pleasure because it’s so much bigger than what I could’ve imagined,” Rehrig said.

Bandera added, “Here we are, thousands of lasagnas in, and thousands of dollars raised. And I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

CLICK HERE for more information on Project Paulie.

Rachel Holt