A motivated network of hundreds of Bedford residents and donors is working daily with local restaurants to prepare and deliver meals and snacks to workers at hospitals in the area as well as Boston, the Merrimack Valley and the North Shore.
“We each take at least five hospitals and make sure we get something to them at least once a day,” said local realtor Suzanne Koller. “We raised more than $14,000 in a very short time. It’s the most beautiful thing.”
The genesis of this project was less than two weeks ago. “I saw that Diane Cohen at Minuteman Diner was doing up some family trays for takeout and I had this idea: Wait a minute – restaurants are trying to ramp up takeout and we have all of these hospital workers on the front lines who are all working long shifts and in need of support,” Koller related. “Why don’t we start a movement where we can create a lot of business for our Bedford restaurants?”
Initial contact with area health care institutions was through “a lot of doctors and nurses who live here and work at local hospitals and the big Boston hospitals,” she said. “So I started contacting people who I knew at those hospitals – a super-grass-roots effort.”
A spreadsheet appeared, addressing questions like: What is the hospital’s policy for accepting deliveries? Do meals need to be individually wrapped? How many people need to be fed? Using the online tool Signup Genius, Koller said, volunteers began committing to pickups and deliveries.
“It has taken on a life of its own,” Koller exclaimed. “We are getting a ton of support. People are super active. The restaurants have really stepped up”
“Minuteman Diner is where it all began, Diane is preparing food and personally making deliveries,” Koller said. “Jimmy Morris at Pepper’s has also been huge, and so has Jack at Bedford House of Beef.” Other food purveyors participating include Red Heat, Holi, and Bedford Farms. Discussions continue with other restaurants.
Koller said one of her earliest volunteers was Aarti Kapuria, who grew up in Bedford and now lives in Westford, where she is instituting the program. The restaurant network is starting to expand into Burlington, including the Chateau restaurant, which has a Bedford connection through the Nocera family.
Koller mentioned a related project spearheaded by Deborah Ann Genetti. “People are putting together care packages, things like hand soaps and treats.” The movement’s Facebook group early this week had more than 700 members.
“I have so many great donors, but we will need more to sustain it,” Koller said. Donors can mail or deliver checks payable to Suzanne Koller to her office at 90 The Great Road. Koller said she didn’t want to bother to file for tax-exempt status – the need is too great. Online donations through the Venmo app can be made via @Suzanne-Koller-1. People who don’t feel they are able to donate are offering to deliver food or help in other ways, she said.
Koller also mentioned an ancillary drive that is especially appropriate for children. “At Winchester Hospital we were told that the patients are alone and the medical staff is dressed in protective gear. If we can have the community write get-well cards ad notes of encouragement to the patients. Lahey hospital put out a similar call.” Cards can also be left in the dropbox at 90 The Great Road.