The Burlingame community is raising money, lifting spirits and supporting the local economy with a charitable program buying meals for medical workers fighting on the front lines to stop the spread of COVID-19.
An online fundraiser started to purchase lunches and dinners from Burlingame restaurants for delivery to emergency workers at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center raised approximately $21,000 overnight through crowdsourcing website GoFundMe.
Burlingame resident Jeff DeMartini said he was initially inspired to launch the fundraiser out of gratitude for those working long hours to protect the community, while exposing themselves to the threat of contracting the potentially lethal coronavirus.
But he also wanted to help local businesses during a period of sustained uncertainty, especially in the food service and restaurant industry which is grappling with extreme hardship under the stay-at-home order.
“It’s a cool city that we live in and I just want it to stay the same, so we will try to do what we can,” said DeMartini.
After launching the fundraiser late Monday, March 30, DeMartini said he was astounded by the community’s selflessness. More than 100 donors contributed within 12 hours to the fund, and more than a dozen restaurants expressed a willingness to contribute meals.
Medical Center CEO Janet Wagner shared her appreciation for the support shown to local doctors, nurses and support staff.
“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our community at this very stressful time,” she said in an email. “With every meal we will receive nutrition for our staff to keep them strong and heartfelt well wishes that will sustain our spirits.”
Details of the initiative are still being sorted out, but tentatively the plan is to raise money over the next couple weeks and then begin purchasing meals for delivery in mid-April. DeMartini said the timeline was established after discussing with workers at the medical center, who suggested when the meals might be most needed.
Calvin Wang, owner of Young Can Wok, is a restaurateur who jumped at the invitation to contribute to a good cause.
“I think the nurses and doctors are doing a great job to serve the community. They work so hard in this time, I think they really deserve a nice meal and I will do whatever I can to support them,” said Wang, who has owned the Chinese bistro on Broadway for about five years.
Under normal circumstances, Wang noted many of his regular customers are workers at the medical center. So he is happy to offer them some peace of mind — even something as simple as the comfort of a hearty meal during an otherwise hectic and stressful time.
John Kevranian, president of the Broadway Business Improvement District, admired residents, merchants and other community members who responded to the call for assistance.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m so flabbergasted,” said Kevranian, who DeMartini leaned on to recruit local restaurants and businesses to participate in the meal program.
Beyond the benefit of providing meals to health care workers, Kevranian said the initiative can offer a life raft to local restaurants and eateries.
“Restaurants are struggling so we need to step in and do what we can,” he said.
Yet despite his interest in helping the local economy, DeMartini said many of the restaurateurs participating in the program have offered to provide discounted or free meals to the workers. That enduring charitable spirit is illustrative of a tight-knit community willing to rally and support those in need — even when so many have fallen on hard times, he said.
“They are paying it forward at a time when they don’t have much,” he said.
More broadly though, he suggested the patronage provided through the meal program could be one way Burlingame assures cherished local businesses survive an unprecedented time.
“When this is over I want to go back to downtown Burlingame and I want it to look the way it did when this all started,” he said.
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/meals-for-mills-dollars-for-dining to find out more about the fundraiser, donate and see a list of participating restaurants.
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