Coronavirus in Jacksonville: Acts of kindness, good deeds, how area residents are helping others
By Beth Reese Cravey
When times are tough, Jacksonville’s people come through for each other.
While it’s important to read the latest news about coronavirus, it’s also good for us to read about the good deeds, the random acts of kindness and the stories about people helping those around them. These stories are sure to make you smile or inspire you on ways you give back to your community.
Here’s where we’ll share some of them. If you know of more, fill out the form at the end of this story to give us an idea. While we won’t have the time to share everything, we will work hard to confirm many of these stories to share with our readers in the Florida Times-Union and on Jacksonville.com.
Restaurant meals to health-care workers: Former surgeon Fadi Chakour, now an attorney at the Terrell Hogan law firm, created Feed our Healthcare Heroes, a community-wide effort to provide meals to healthcare workers at local hospitals. Three restaurants — D&G Deli and Grill, European Street Café and Clara’s Tidbits — are delivering meals to St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville but Chakour is seeking additional restaurants, businesses and individuals to join. To help, call Laura Hack at (904) 910-2401 or go to bit.ly/2QRVCo1.
Food and kudos for Orange Park hospital staff: When Orange Park Medical Center staff showed up for work Monday morning, there was a giant thank-you message waiting for them in front of the hospital. “Heroes Work Here” proclaimed the big cards donated by the Big Yard Card lawn greeting company. Then on Wednesday, Jacksonville Roller Derby delivered lunch to the hospital’s emergency room staff, who are at “the very front-lines of this pandemic,” said hospital spokeswoman Carrie Turansky. “We are getting donations like this at a rapid pace,” she said. “The hospital is overwhelmed by the generosity.”.
Free meals for health-care workers: Biscottis, an Avondale restaurant, is partnering with its takeout and delivery customers to support health-care workers. “For every $50 someone spends, we will give a meal to a hospital worker dealing with the influx of the virus — that will amount to about 60 meals a day,” said owner Barbara Bredehoeft. “We’re taking deliveries to hospitals throughout the day. That’s our way of giving back and a way for you to feel good about ordering from us.” Biscottis is currently offering takeout, curbside pick-up, limited free delivery and half-priced wine. The restaurant has also started a Go Fund Me page to support its furloughed staff members.
“Brain food” to join school food distribution: READ USA, a Jacksonville-based literacy nonprofit, has donated about 35,000 books to be distributed at the 81 federally designated Title 1 schools that have high numbers of children from low-income families. The books can be picked up along with “grab-and-go” food packages being distributed at Duval schools and will provide “mental sustenance for the children and their families who are homebound due to this virus,” according to READ USA.
Food bank, health insurer enlist farmers, restaurant staff: Feeding NE Florida and Florida Blue have joined forces to support local farmers, unemployed restaurant workers and hungry seniors. The food bank replaced reduced food donations by buying foods and vegetables from farmers whose restaurant supply business had dried up and hired out-of-work restaurant staff to prepare and package the food. Florida Blue donated $100,000 to help with the food purchases and offered space in two almost-dormant dormant kitchens at its Southside campus. Out-of-work staff at Black Sheep and other restaurants and employees of Flik, Florida Blue’s food vendor,m provided the labor. “This is a story about various groups coming up with imaginative ways to help each other,” said Florida Blue spokeswoman Toni Woods.
Tip out-of-work Jacksonville-area wait staff from home: The Jacksonville FL Virtual Tip Jar has been set up to allow patrons to tip their favorite wait staff without leaving Home. The list includes staff by name and the virtual methods through which they can accept donations.
Dry-goods hauler to support local charities: Wisconsin-based Paper Transport Inc. plans to donate half of its April profits to charities in communities where the company has terminals, which includes Jacksonville. Each donation will be at least $100,000, possibly as much as $300,000, and go to organizations supporting victims of the coronavirus. The 30-year-old, dry-van carrier hauls consumer products such as toilet paper, packaging and soap and has particularly busy in recent weeks.
Church meals for unemployed restaurant staff: Riverside Park United Methodist Church in Jacksonville will provide free to-go meals at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday nights beginning March 25 for servers or bartenders, baristas affected by the closure of bars and restaurant dining rooms. The meals will continue as long as possible, with financial help from Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home. The church is at 819 Park St. Call (904) 355-5491 so preparers can get a head count.
Free hot meals at Casa Leon Mexican Restaurant: The Atlantic Beach eatery is offering free hot meals to from 2 to 5 p.m. for people who are “being economically affected” by the pandemic. “We only ask for you to be mindful of others and if you really need a hand, but if don’t please let someone who really needs it benefit from this,” the restaurant posted on Facebook Monday. Casa Leon is at 2260 Mayport Road, call (904) 246-1729.
Teen baseball players go to bat for seniors: Three members of Fletcher High School’s junior varsity baseball team — Jayden Smith, Ryen Deangelis and Walker Rabren — shopped for elderly residents of Heartland Health Care Center on University Boulevard who were at-risk of getting sick if they went out. The players “wanted to give back,” said Jennifer Smith, Jayden’s mother. They came up with a list of items, got it approved by Heartland and spent a few hours Saturday at Walmart. “They ... shopped for all the things on their lists from body washes to shampoos, toothbrushes and toothpaste to crossword books and packages of sugar-free candy and boxes of tea,” Smith said. They even created bags to deliver all the items. Another player, Drake McCoy, couldn’t go with them but donated items to go in the 18 bags. “I was very proud of the boys,” she said, “since their season has been put on hold with all that’s happening.”
Customer cheers Grumpy’s Restaurant: A regular customer of Grumpy’s Restaurant, a family-owned diner in Orange Park, called the manager Sunday and asked how many staff members they had. Monday that customer brought 27 crisp $100 bills for each of the full-time staff members to help them out during the pandemic.
Cool Moose Coffee Co. offers freebies: One day it was a free cup of coffee, another it was a free meal for the elderly. Tuesday and Friday it will be a medical professional, first responder or law enforcer. Cool Moose has asked the public to tag members of those groups at facebook.com/CoolMooseCafe and Tuesday and Friday afternoon they will draw a name for an individual to receive a “Hero Package,” including a gift card to the Moose, a Cool Moose coffee mug and a bag of coffee.
Cinotti’s Bakery offers free food to medical professionals and free meals for the elderly or homebound: Cinotti’s Bakery in Jacksonville Beach is offering a free breakfast or lunch sandwich to any medical professional during the pandemic, as long as they are open. Arrive in uniform or with valid identification They are also asking customers to tell them about elderly neighbors or family members who are homebound during the crisis: the bakery will prepare a meal and pack it up for customers to deliver. | More information
Customer leaves big tip for struggling wait staff: A customer at El Jefe Jax, a Tex-Mex restaurant on Edgewood Avenue, left a $100 tip on a $59.92 bill. The restaurant’s Facebook page reported the “generous” gesture: “Any act of kindness, no matter how big or small, is what is going to get us all through this troubled time.”
Teen shifts GoFundMe account beneficiaries: Since 2018, aspiring architect Gabriella White has been raising money in a GoFundMe account to attend an American Institute of Architects conference in 2020. After the conference was canceled because of coronavirus concerns, the teenager changed the goal of her account — gofundme.com/f/gabby-to-aia-in-2020 — and is now raising money to buy more surgical masks for local hospitals.
Free fresh bread handed out in Nassau: Nana Teresa’s Bake Shop in Fernandina Beach noticed that grocery stores were running out of bread and took action. On Friday, the shop offered about 150 free full-size loaves of fresh artisan bread to the community, one loaf per family, in the bakery and at curbside. They even delivered free loaves to the elderly and planned to donate leftover braead to a boys’ home.
Teachers stage special food delivery: A group of teachers realized that some of their students who live in a mobile home community were unable to get back to the school for meals being provided during the coronavirus-related school closure. Working with the Blessing in a Packpack nonprofit, they collected food donated by teachers and volunteers and delivered it to the students.
Girl Scout Cookies for first responders: The Girl Scouts of Gateway Council has committed to donate at least 20,000 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to local hospital staff, first responders and pharmacy staff. The North Florida-based council is asking organizations, companies and donors to buy cookies in bulk and the council match all donations given on top of the 20,000 of boxes already committed. Contact TriciaRae Stancato at (904) 421-3484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crisis grant for Suzbacher homeless center: Sulzbacher, a Jacksonville nonprofit that serves the homeless, has received a $100,000 emergency response grant from the Jim Moran Foundation. The grant will fund meals, housing and child care for individuals and families who lost employment and income because of the pandemic. “We are facing increased costs ... and a decrease in donations,” said Cindy Funkhouser, Sulzbacher president and CEO, but the Moran grant “will help us provide a stronger crisis response and allow us to recover and continue our mission.”
Diaper shortage filled at Gateway: In February, Gateway Community Services began a diaper drive for its clients suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues. By last week, the drive had collected 6,638 diapers and 1,872 baby wipes. Now Gateway is giving some of those diapers to its moms who had trouble finding them because of panic-buying.
This article first appeared on The Florida Times Union on March 23, 2020.
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