Meals are being delivered to medical personnel at all hospitals around Long Island, and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore is receiving significant support from the community to supply these meals from local restaurants.
The Islips Feed the Southside Hospital Employees is a Facebook group that has raised more than $43,000 in short order. East Islip resident Pat Blair cre- ated the page on Tuesday, March 24, and has witnessed a flood of support in just over three weeks. She asks everyone to donate what they can through the Venmo account: @Pat-Blair-4.
“A lot of people who will donate when they get their check, they will throw $25- $50 at it,” Blair said, adding that she has received donations anywhere between $10 and $1,000 from community members. “There are a lot of repeat donations whenever their check is deposited into their bank account. It is incredible.”
Blair said many of the restaurants were donating meals to the hospitals before the page was started.
“[These restaurants] were taking it on the chin. They were just donating out of the goodness of their hearts. We wanted to establish this to help the restaurants a little bit and also make sure that the hospital employees had food during the course of the day,” she said, continuing on to explain that they deliver 200 meals per day at the moment, split between noon and 8 a.m. time windows. “It is different restaurants every day, and they tell me the cost, and we pay them from the Venmo account that has been set up. Right now, we have thrown back about $24,000 into the local community to the restaurants.”
Blair stressed that the restaurants are not profiting—simply covering their food costs.
“They are showing a tremendous amount of goodwill,” Blair said. “One of the restaurants that we are using next week just reached out to me this morning because the staff wanted to say ‘thank you’ because they were able to work a day that normally they would not because we were using them to supply the food to the hospital. It is a win-win for everyone.”
Bubba’s Burrito Bar in Islip is one of several local restaurants preparing meals for hospital employees on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic. Tim Henriksen, the owner of Bubba’s, said that he has wanted to get his business involved in the donation initiatives at hospitals.
“By [Blair] setting up this organization, she was our liaison to coordinate, and we just donated it from the restau- rant,” Henriksen said, adding that there have been days where the restaurant donated 100 meals to Southside, split between two units. “We wanted to be a part of the whole program going on.”
Considering that Bubba’s already sports an established takeout option for its customers, Henriksen made note that the business is more fortunate than oth- er local restaurants that have relied on the sit-down meal for their customers.
“A lot of other restaurants that are more dine-in do not have the systems in place, do not have the clientele. Our mindset, too, was to keep these funds available for businesses that want to participate and are not as set up as we are and as capable of doing the takeout, as we do,” Henriksen said, referring to the fact that they are not accepting money from the donation fund for its contribu- tions. “We just want to help these hospital workers, nurses, and doctors.”
Henriksen added that when the pan demic was beginning to proliferate and social gathering restrictions limited the options for restaurants, many of Bubba’s employees were removed due to parents’ concerns for safety.
“We were on the brink of possibly having to shut down just because I did not have the staff to even operate,” Hen- riksen said. “Thankfully, we got by with what we had—very limited, very skeleton. But we were able to keep our doors open.”
An avenue that saved the business, Henriksen said, were the contributions from generous customers and other businesses who wanted to help those on the front lines in the hospitals.
“The key to this is that we have had a lot of generous customers and generous businesses that have reached out to us and said, ‘hey, we have $800, we want to buy Bubba’s, and we want you to bring it to [Good Samaritan Hospital] tomorrow," Henricksen said.
Southside Hospital and its parent operator, Northwell Health, have expressed their gratitude for the community’s sup- port in helping the essential employees at the hospital.
“[Blair] has purchased so many meals from different local businesses to feed the hospital,” said Eddie Fraser, the vice president for community relations for Northwell Health. “The hospital staff has been so appreciative. They are over-whelmed by the generosity of the community. It has been ongoing. Every single day, they are getting meals three times a day. They are a big part of this food donation.
“When you do not have to think about your lunch, and it is just provided every day to you, it just takes one more step out of their thinking. Honestly, they focus more on their patients. It goes deeper as you start thinking about it because they go eat and they are right back at it again,” Fraser added.
Fraser went on to say that the 23 hospitals throughout Northwell Health’s system are receiving significant support from local communities, especially in terms of delivering meals to employees.
“We have so many different groups and restaurants that have done this for the hospitals, not just Southside,” he said. “From Northwell as a whole, we are so grateful for the community.”