Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • April 28, 2020
By Joseph S. Pete
Region friends Katie Garza, Victoria Kemp and Ashley Halpern organized an effort providing restaurant meals for front-line health care workers across Northwest Indiana every night for a week.
Their Community Hospital ICU Meal Train furnished seven days’ worth of food to nine local hospitals, including Community Hospital in Munster, Franciscan Hospital in Hammond, Franciscan Hospital in Crown Point, Franciscan Hospital in Munster, Franciscan Hospital in Dyer, Methodist Hospital in Gary and Methodist Hospital in Merrillville. The meals went to health care workers embroiled in the coronavirus fight on the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“We were home and at a loss for what we could do to help,” said Halpern, chief designer at Region-based Albert’s Diamond Jeweler’s. “We came up with the idea of a meal train where we get good restaurant meals to the overnight shift at seven area hospitals. The goal was to get people to sponsor meals so we could get ICU staff meals every day for seven days. We made sure it was locally owned restaurants.”
People donated to hospitals where family members worked or ones they had a personal connection to, such as if they got treated there.
They raised $7,600 in just three days and then Halpern’s father-in-law, Fred Halpern, who owns Albert’s Diamond Jeweler’s in Schererville and at the Southlake Mall in Hobart, chipped in another $2,400 to bring it to $10,000.
“We’re the type of family where if something needs support we ask how can we help,” she said.
They were able to add two more hospitals: St. Catherine’s in East Chicago and St. Mary’s in Hobart. After the donations rolled in, they were able to line up discounted meals from multiple restaurants such as Ciao Bella; Theo’s; Byway Brewery; R Bar; Caprotti’s; Chop House on Wicker; Jalapeno’s The Hottest Mexican Restaurant; Gino’s; Blake Alexander’s; Doc’s Smokehouse and Craft Bar; and Giuseppe’s Pizza.
It was one of multiple efforts across Northwest Indiana to feed front-line health care workers, who have been swamped with coronavirus cases and are trying to avoid hospital cafeterias to practice social distancing. Feed the Front Lines, Feeding the First Responders and Adopt-a-Nurse also are seeking to support struggling restaurants.
“A lot of business owners and people are being very conservative right now with their money, being very cautious,” Halpern said. “But people jumped right in to donate. It’s heartwarming so many people would help when everyone’s struggling right now.”