Communities rally to feed hospital workers

Bayhealth is welcoming donations of food for hospital staff at its Kent and Sussex county campuses through Meal Train. (Submitted photo)

Shifts these days and nights can be long, demanding and stressful for hospital staff on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses and communities are stepping up to deliver both moral and edible support.

Feeding the fight has taken on different modus operandi at health care systems in Kent and Sussex counties, ranging from prepared food donations and scheduled deliveries to restaurant gift card campaign geared to help “crush” COVID-19.

No masked bandit, Tena Koller picks up three Grotto’s pizzas for staff in Nanticoke Memorial Hospital’s Medical Records department. (Submitted photos

Bayhealth, whose network includes Bayhealth Hospital Kent and Sussex Campuses and a freestanding Emergency Department in Smyrna, is now accepting food donations through Meal Train delivery, located at www.Bayhealth.org/Food-Donations.

“We are in need of approximately 30 meals per shift,” said Bayhealth Volunteer Services Manager Carrie Hart. “Food donations will be distributed to various departments and we will accept snacks and meals of any size as long as they meet the guidelines we have established to ensure the safety of our staff.”

In Seaford, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, part of the Peninsula Regional Health System network, is experiencing waves of pledged donations of food, snacks and ice cream and dairy treats.

Amanda Collins, left, and Robin Russum head back to work with pizzas for Med Surge co-workers Wednesday on free pizza day at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Seventy Grotto’s pizzas were delivered through the Kim & Evans Family Foundation. (Submitted photo)

“The support from the community has been just tremendous,” said Sharon Harrington, Director of Strategic Communications Delaware/Peninsula Regional Health System.

And staff is grateful and appreciative.

“Just knowing that people are there to care for you and knowing people are there to support you and you’re not alone makes such a huge difference. I hear staff say again and again, it’s the small things, the really unexpected things that really helps lift them,” said Ms. Harrington. “These teams that work in the critical care areas and the ED, they are under a lot of stress on a normal day. So, you add in the fact that you are trying to handle a situation with the COVID-19 and working through the different precautions with those patients … it just adds to the anxiety because at the end of the day they want to do their very best they can for everybody that comes through the door. The staff has been amazing but I hear them again saying over and over that the small, unexpected things makes shows somebody cares.”

Joe Ferber, left, grabs a slice of Grotto’s cheese pizza in Nanticoke Memorial Hospital’s food court as Tracy Fiori and David Eanes prepare to serve other hospital staff. Seventy large pizzas were delivered to Nanticoke Wednesday through the Kim & Evans Family Foundation. (Submitted photo)

Beebe Healthcare, with several campuses in Sussex County, has implemented an entirely different initiative. It’s coined #CrushCorona and has its own special Facebook page that is drawing waves of pictures and rave reviews.

As of mid-day Tuesday, 1,600 gift cards — each a $25 increment good for food at local restaurants through delivery or pickup — had been purchased. Beebe’s goal of 2,900 gift cards will undoubtedly be reached, said Tom Protack, president of the Beebe Medical Foundation.

“It has been a contagious thing in a good way,” said Mr. Protack. “It is spreading in a good way.”

For now, donated food from the outside world is not being accepted at Beebe campuses. However, gift cards are welcome.

“Everybody wants to feed the fight and feed our heroes,” said Mr. Protack. “We realized immediately that it was going to be a little bit of a logistical concern of having all these food deliveries to the campus at different times, from different vendors and having more people being screened and people on the campus who don’t need to be there.”

So, a grassroots effort took root, enlisting support of local Realtors, contractors, the restaurant world and many others.

“I like to call it Beebe’s version of the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge,’” said Mr. Protack. “We’re calling it #CrushCorona. It’s like, ‘Let’s crush this coronavirus,’ but it also plays off Dewey Beach’s famous Orange Crush.”

Besides Facebook, #CrushCorona has its own logo. “We’re actually selling CrushCoronva T-shirts,” said Mr. Proteck.

“It helps everybody out,” said Mr. Protack. “What this does is, number one, it removes the whole idea of food coming in at different times and not knowing where it is coming from. It helps to know that the $25 is helping our local restaurants who are struggling right now. It helps our team members get a free meal. And it also helps folks who want to support to feed the fight.”

Response from individuals, businesses, homeowners’ associations has been astounding.

“We launched about 12 days ago. I like to say the surge of patients at the hospital with COVID-19 has not come yet here for us in Sussex county, but the surge of generosity from Sussex County community has come to Beebe Healthcare and Beebe Medical Foundation,” said Mr. Protack.

Bayhealth: Meal Train

When signing up for a donation on the Meal Train delivery website, Bayhealth asks that donors also specify delivery time and meal quantity. Meal Train deliveries can be made to the Kent and/or Sussex campuses.

Bayhealth’s guidelines include:

• Packaged food from professional and licensed restaurants or grocery stores only to ensure safety of staff. This will help support local restaurants as well.

•If possible, please have meals wrapped individually.

Food donations will be distributed to various departments. Any amount of meals will be accepted, and any donation will not go to waste, according to Bayhealth’s Meal Train site.

Those who wish to donate restaurant gift cards or to make a monetary gift that will be used to purchase food for Bayhealth staff may do so via the Bayhealth Foundation.

Local restaurant gift cards can be dropped off at the Bayhealth Foundation office located at 567 S. Governor’s Ave, Dover. A drop box is located just inside the door of the building. Donors are asked to enclose the gift cards in a sealed envelope with their name and home address written on the outside of the envelope.

Visit Bayhealth.org/Food-Donations to learn more or to make a food donation to Bayhealth.

For additional information, call Carrie Hart at 302-744-7466 or email Carrie_Hart@Bayhealth.org.

Nanticoke Memorial

At Nanticoke Memorial in Seaford, food, treats and snacks are arriving literally daily for employees and staff.

McDonalds restaurant is doing free value meals in April. Starbucks has delivered coffee and danish. Century Seals has sponsored ice cream for the day.

Wednesday afternoon, 70 large cheese pizzas made at Grotto Pizza were delivered through the Kim & Evans Family Foundation. For dessert, there was a generous donation of yogurt.

Tuesday, there was a donation of Chick-fil-A coupons sponsored by David G. Horsey & Sons, Inc.

“We had a number of groups providing food for our ED (Emergency Department) staff. Several companies have sponsored ice cream day, yogurt and different treats,” said Ms. Harrington. “People have donated snacks. We are building out our Sunshine Cart to use when we go around to staff.”

For in-house donations through the hospital’s food service, Nanticoke has a menu list of items and per piece prices.

“They can say, ‘Hey, I want to sponsor that,’” said Ms. Harrington.

For offers of prepared food, advance accommodations are required.

“If somebody wanted to send food, like pizza to your ICU nurses, they could. They just have to call us and scheduled it first. Obviously, we’re not allowing visitors; it’s only patients and staff in the building,” said Ms. Harrington. “You have to pre-schedule that to be delivered outside building and we will have a point person come out to accept delivery and bring into hospital.”

Others, like Trinity/Burris Logistics, are donating cash for meals.

“They can donate in a number of ways,” said Ms. Harrington. “They can always make a cash donation. Some of that money is being gathered and pooled so that when we do hit the surge, there is larger pool of money to provide meals for staff, when we get to the really hard stuff.”

Offers of food is part of Nanticoke’s communitywide support that includes donation of hand lotion, lip balm, homemade masks, N95 masks or similar versions needed by front-line personnel.

Nanticoke is seeing patients coming into the Emergency Department with more severe symptoms, thus needing a higher level of care. That hikes the level of service and care provided by medical staff.

“We are continuing to accept those because we don’t know what is to come. We’re expecting this to be a marathon,” said Ms. Harrington. “Imagine that, working in the ED during a pandemic. So, it does mean a lot.”

Beebe: Let’s Crush Corona

Response to #CrushCorona has been amazing, Mr. Protack said.

Donations range from a single $25 card to pledges of $5,000. Support has spanned the spectrum — construction companies, doggie daycares, individual businesses, among many others.

“Everybody is getting on this Crush Corona Challenge. People are taking pictures of themselves and posting on Facebook saying, ‘Thank you to our Beebe Heroes and team members,’” said Mr. Protack.

The key thing, Mr. Protack says, is #CrushCorona support is made online.

“This is the best thing we did. It keeps people from getting out their house. It’s easier for everybody, especially our older donors,” he said. “These are the same businesses that support Beebe Healthcare also sponsors of our events … and donate to us. Now it is our time to help each other. Folks are home. They are quarantined, following restrictions. They want to help the local restaurants that everybody loves.”

Gift card recipients are selected at random, drawn from a hat filled letters spanning the alphabet, A to Z.

“When we get a good batch, like 400 to 500, we pick a letter out of the hat,” said Mr. Protack.

Tuesday, the lucky letter was “T.” Gift cards were mailed directly the homes of employees whose last name began with that letter.

At present, Beebe’s Foundation team is working seven days a week, processing fielding calls and mailing out gift cards.

Additionally, a strategic plan has been discussed should Beebe reach the point of need for mass food deliveries of donated food.

Beebe Foundation staff, along with recently-arrived CEO Dr. David Tam, met with representatives of numerous local restaurants. “We met outside, in a circle six feet apart. Dr. David Tam met them all,” said Mr. Protack.

“We’re not at that level yet. When we get to that point, we have another level where we are working with some of the local caterer companies,” said Mr. Protack, noting one coastal restaurant is currently on board with deliveries. “Highway One of Dewey Beach has volunteered — for free — to send food to us twice a week for three shifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That already started this week.”

The #CrushCorona campaign is part of Beebe’s response, backed by community unity.

“As soon as the pandemic began to reach our region Beebe Medical Foundation established the Beebe Healthcare COVID-19 Relief Fund. It is an actual physical fund where folks could donate money, financial contributions to Beebe,” said Mr. Protack.

Funding is being used directly for Beebe’s increased expenses of personal protection equipment, as well as securing and purchasing rapid-testing/in-house testing at Beebe Healthcare.

“Since the fund was established 3 ½ to four weeks ago we have raised over $500,000 in cash,” said Mr. Protack. “Beebe has been around for 104 years. They appreciate the asset Beebe is. We’re all in it together.”


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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