Meals for medical staff
Hospital workers at Beaumont Royal Oak welcome meals from Grabba Green. (Photo: Dani Gillman)

Six local women have found a safe way to raise funds to help local restaurants and hospital workers.

As we endure the coronavirus pandemic, many individuals are homebound and healthy, feeling powerless to help those less fortunate. But six local women have found a safe way to raise funds to help local restaurants and hospital workers. 

Danielle (Dani) Gillman, 42, was texting with five friends about what they could do to help during the pandemic. They had read about a New Jersey group called Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) that was raising money in their community for restaurant meals to feed front-line healthcare workers, she said. The meal purchases helped restaurants that were struggling and laying off staff because of the stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

In March, Gillman and her friends started FLAG Metro Detroit and created a Facebook group to raise funds for restaurant meals for local healthcare personnel. Through social media and word of mouth, FLAG has raised $125,000 in a few weeks, mostly through individual donations of $10 to $20, she said. Their Facebook group now has more than 18,000 members. 

The funds are used for meals from local restaurants including Phoenicia, Social, Vinotecca, Steve’s Deli, Hunter House, Stage, Jimmy John’s and others. “A lot of restaurants have reached out to us and we try to match them up with hospitals by location. There are multiple deliveries each day. We have been to about 20 hospitals in Metro Detroit,” Gillman said. 

The restaurants prepare easy-to-eat, individually wrapped meals for day and night shift hospital employees. Hospital staff members contact Gillman and her friends to ask for meals for anywhere from 30 healthcare workers to much larger groups. 

For some restaurants, these special orders have been a welcome addition to their business, now limited to carry-out and delivery. “I have had restaurant owners in tears because they’re struggling,” Gillman said. 

For others, providing the meals has been more of a community service. “It’s a way of showing we’re grateful for the work they’re doing,” Steve Goldberg, owner of Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, said. Stage has provided two sets of lunches for 30 employees at Ascension Providence Southfield. They’re sold at cost, he said. Stage joined the effort because Goldberg’s wife, Melissa Kahn, is a friend of Gillman.  

Gillman and the other organizers coordinate restaurant orders and hospital requests through “a spreadsheet that is like gold to us.” Restaurant deliveries are coordinated with hospitals’ 12-hour shifts, typically at noon and 8 p.m. 

“I spoke with a nurse at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. They are really struggling, and the food helps them to keep going,” Gillman said. 

Lisa Ziff of Bloomfield Hills is a nurse at the cardiac catheterization laboratory at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac and a friend of Gillman. She said that that meals are a “morale booster and make people feel appreciated. Plus, some hospital cafeterias are closed.”  

Gillman said they plan to start a nonprofit organization so that they can generate larger donations. She has been active with JARC and Friendship Circle.  

“Our family motto is to show up,” Gillman said. 

For additional information about FLAG visit: https://www.flagmetrodetroit.org.

To donate use one of these options, mentioning: 

  1. Chase Quickpay: bvscmemberships@gmail.com
  2. PayPal: Go to PayPal.me/bvscmemberships *use “Friends and Family” so they don’t incur charges 
  3. Venmo: go to www.venmo.com/BVSC-Memberships
    (If Venmo asks for the 4 digits to confirm: 3082)  

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