BR Answer the Call returns to fight low morale in health workers

Photo courtesy Shannon Hultberg

In the December 2020 issue of inRegister, we highlighted Women with a Cause—among whom were two trailblazers who immediately and generously responded to the impact of COVID-19 on the local restaurant and healthcare industries.

During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, Shannon Williams Hultberg decided to step up her role in the community, coming up with a plan to simultaneously support struggling restaurants while boosting the morale of healthcare workers and first responders. After proposing the idea to her friend Kathryn Rothkamm Gill, the pair established their own nonprofit, BR Answer the Call, and hit the ground running, starting a GoFundMe and connecting with hospitals across the Baton Rouge region and beyond.

In early April 2020, the pair began using the donations to buy meals from local restaurants and deliver food to healthcare workers multiple times a week. The simple gesture seemed to mean a lot to the first responders struggling with long working hours, stressful conditions and psychological tolls, Hultberg says. “I felt like any little thing that we could do—just to let these healthcare workers know that they had support—was well worth it,” she recalls.

By summer of 2020, many people had returned to work, morale had risen, and restaurants began a road to recovery. On May 22, 2020, Hultberg had made her last delivery of the year.

Now, as a result of the new delta variant of COVID-19, Hultberg and her services are in demand once again.

In early August, Hultberg noticed that she had been tagged in a Facebook post. “It was the wife of someone who worked in the ICU at one of the hospitals,” she says. “She was reaching out saying that morale was once again very low among healthcare workers, and that if any friends, family or coworkers wanted to donate any meals, they would be so appreciative.”

Of course, Hultberg responded. Since the return of BR Answer the Call on August 4, Hultberg has delivered nearly 350 meals, this time with the help of several St. Joseph’s Academy students, including Hultberg’s own 16-year-old daughter, Catherine.

Familiar with packing brown-bag lunches as a part of St. Joseph’s Sticker Sack program, each girl takes part by assembling care packages filled with personal items to be delivered to hospitals in addition to the meals.

“We bring a meal, a dessert, care packages and what we call our appreciation posters,” Hultberg explains. Each poster is decorated to be hung up in the workplace, usually in their eating area. “It reminds them that their community is behind them and cares, which makes my heart very full.”

BR Answer the Call maintains the same mission it always has: to encourage the community to step up in times of need. And just like before, individuals across the city are responding, donating approximately $5,000 since August 4.

“I hope everybody realizes that anybody can make a difference in their community,” Hultberg says. “Even though I’m the person delivering the food, the people in the community are the ones that are behind it all.”

On Friday, August 20, Brian Dantin and Ross Bruce of Dantin Bruce Development will provide 101 meals for Baton Rouge General – Mid City. They are looking for another business to match their donation through BR Answer the Call. For more information, visit the BR Answer the Call Facebook page.