Is it just us or has social distancing actually brought us closer together? Not physically, granted, but in a much more significant way. The COVID-19 crisis has forced people to take a step back and remember what’s important: one another.
On the night schools were officially closed, local mom Shannon Hultberg was at a middle school pep rally. Suddenly, an activity that would usually pass in an uneventful daze was of utmost importance, serving as the last moment of normalcy before months of uncertainty.
“The emotions overtook me,” explains Hultberg. “We are all neighbors. We have families involved in the restaurant, health care and other businesses. All of these people would be affected.”
Hultberg immediately called up her friend Kathryn Rothkamm Gill and the two talked through an idea that would tie aid for local restaurants with appreciation for hospital workers, who would form the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
“BR Answer the Call was born,” Hultberg says.
The newly formed organization utilizes donations to bring business to local restaurants by placing large orders to be delivered to local hospital workers–including people like janitors and IT specialists, in addition to doctors and nurses. And while already resulting in some 1,325 meals delivered in just two weeks, for Hultberg and Gill, what’s most moving are the donations themselves.
“What I think makes it so special is that so far all of our donations–totaling almost $13,000–have been provided by individuals,” explains Hultberg, who notes that 100% of donations go straight to local restaurants. “These same individuals are going through financial hardship in their own lives but they want to give back and say ‘thank you.’ We are blessed to live in a community that wants to lend help to their neighbors.”
In the coming days, BR Answer the Call is expanding beyond Baton Rouge to locations including a mental health facility in Jackson, Louisiana, where 88 patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Being from southern Louisiana, food is such a pivotal part of all gatherings,” says Gill. “We make meals for people when we’re happy and when we’re sad. It’s our way of helping and bringing comfort. Delivering and sharing food give the feeling of family.”
Hultberg and Gill plan to continue spreading this sentiment long after the peak of the pandemic. For them, this was just the impetus that propelled them into a worthy cause.
“We love being a grassroots charity that directly serves our local community,” Gill says. “If there’s a need, we’ll be there.”