Starting the new year, like many we all set the intentions and goals to accomplish in that new year. 2020 was no different. I, myself, thought new year better me. However, the entire planet was thrown a massive curve ball. Many know her as Ms. Rona, but her proper name is COVID-19. Fun fact, according to NBC News, it was originally called the nCOVID-19 because it was the novel Coronavirus, discovered in 2019.
By March, cases in the United States began to see first signs of covid on it’s shores. Moreover, the lack of political response or action from the White House left cities to figure out this pandemic on their own.
On March 22nd Governor Cuomo put into effect the official Stay At Home order. This was intended to curb the growing number of COVID cases. Unfortunately, days after this, the number of cases exploded. New York City now shot up to the top of the list of infected cities in the country. Tensions were mounting globally with governments and health agencies two steps behind the pandemic. Every week millions of people were filing for unemployment. The toilet paper shortage was the most intriguing indicator that the “new abnormal” had begun.
Within the New York City, Queens ranked #1 with cases; Taking the unwanted title of hardest hit borough. The hardest hit hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, is located in my childhood neighborhood of Jackson Heights. The epicenter of the pandemic is only 40 blocks from my current residence, basically in my backyard.
Compelled to help, I started with donating to charities. To name a few, Feed America COVID fund or GoFund me campaigns for local businesses to help their employees. Donations are definitely altruistic and offer organizations the means to help communities and causes.
But at that moment, it didn’t seem like enough! The world watched intently as the numbers kept rising. I personally have been plugged into the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard. As I write this, the numbers have surpassed 11 million cases.
Watching the world in a state of limbo, I saw this as a call to action to help my community. I was lucky enough to continue to have a job and a profession that is deemed non essential. So I proposed an idea to my brother: let’s buy lunch for the essential workers at a few hospitals in Queens and we’ll purchase the meals from a restaurant in that community to double the impact.
He was on board before I could finish my sentence. In an age where all your answers are located on the internet or YouTube, Google and perseverance became our best friends in this to figure out where to starts.
So we started to google. Another fun fact, when I need to get in contact with a organization, company, or corporate, my Google Search looks something like Mount Sinai Contact Us. I keep going until I get in touch with the right office.
On Tuesday March 31st, we delivered 60+ individually packaged gyros for lunch service to the employees of Mount Sinai Queens located in Astoria. We arranged this service with special thanks to Anna Rodriguez (Director of Community Relations) at Mount Sinai Queens. She was ready with open arms to help. The food was provided by SVL Bar NYC (@svlbarnyc). It was an obvious choice because of their location and great food. Owner, Peter Katsiaris (@petekatsiaris) was inspired by what we were doing, so he graciously donated the drinks for our order and personally delivered the meals. As a small business, SVL Bar New York City was not immune to the pandemic but Peter continued multiple services to the hospital after this.
Filled with joy that the food was well received. We began to spread the word among friends and family. Instagram was also a great tool to bring awareness to the restaurants. So we reposted to let people know SVL and Peter were open for business. The posts made their way across the United States and even a few international likes. The more awareness of our efforts helped bring in more donations which multiplied our efforts for the next lunch. With that boost we were inspired to continue organizing more food deliveries in partnership with local businesses.
On Easter Sunday April 12th, we delivered 100+ meals for lunch service to the employees of Elmhurst Hospital located in Jackson Heights. This time around it was personal since this is where my brother and I grew up. We arranged this service with Brittany Nicole Singh (volunteer) specifically for the weekend because donations typically came in during the week. The food was provided by Farine Baking Company (@farinebakingcompany) owned by acclaimed chef Michael Mignano (@michaelmignano). Farine Baking Company was already donating lunch service on Tuesdays and Thursdays but they were happy to help, and even donated brownies as Easter dessert to compliment the lunch.
On Monday May 18th the third food service was delivered to New York Presbyterian of Queens in Flushing. We worked with Jacqueline Cahill (Director for Volunteer Services) to deliver 100+ individually packed sandwiches for lunch service. The food was provided by Krave It (@krave_it). Vishee, owner, was incredibly helpful. To abide by health and safety guidelines by the hospital, he purchased special packaging to ensure all the meals we grab and go. Later that same week, Vishee then donated a separate lunch service to feed 100+ employees. Everyone we spoke to along the way understood our mission and contributed above and beyond to it.
Over the course of 8 weeks, we were able to raise over three thousand dollars from over 60 people to feed over 300 people. Coupled with our personal donations to this cause, we purchase 3 large catering orders from 3 local restaurants who then contributed additional food, from their own pocket, to these hospitals. To witness the way people joined together to help, reminds me the power of humanity. It is simple. We can all stand up and do something for change!
A special thanks to each of the owners (Peter, Michael and Vishee), staff at the hospitals (Anna, Brittnay, Jacqueline), the 60 donors, but also to those that drove awareness to these efforts.
Ray Dalio says “when people recognize that their own well-being is directly connected to that of their community, the ownership relationship becomes reciprocal.” In other words, to hear the call to action for the people of your community is our individual and collective duty. The countless hours spent calling, emailing, organizing and coordinating are an investment back into these communities.
Thank you to the frontline medical workers and all essential workers for your efforts. Your contribution does not go unnoticed! You are the true heros.