(NEW YORK) — Anna Azvolinsky and Joel Weingarten were looking for ways to help local hospitals amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Azvolinsky, a molecular biologst, already had donated a cache of N95 masks she found in her closet.
When she was speaking with a doctor at Mount Sinai West, she asked what else they could do.
“We really don’t have time to eat,” Weingarten said the doctor told his wife.
With that, Meals 4 Heroes was created on March 30. The volunteer-only organization has since donated nearly 4,000 meals from local restaurants to hospitals around New York City, whose health care system has been hammered by the virus.
Weingarten said he hoped the program, which is funded through donations from the public and companies, would be twofold. When some restaurants offered to donate the meals, he insisted on paying for them.
“We want to make sure they’re still here when this is over,” Weingarten told ABC News. “And the medical workers, they’re the real heroes here.”
The 15 restaurants that have prepared and delivered food for the hospitals are located in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. The meals have gone to 10 hospitals, including Lincoln Medical Center in The Bronx, Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
Typically, there are about 50 to 250 meals in each order.
He was able to launch the program so quickly after his wife’s phone call — at 4 a.m. that following morning to be exact — because of his background in startups. Weingarten is the cofounder of the nonprofit Doing4Others, which he launched with his business partner Ryall Carroll. Meals 4 Heroes is an offshoot of the already existing nonprofit and Carroll helped Weingarten create the new organization.
Their staff is made up only of volunteers. Some are friends of friends who heard about the program, while others are people who were interested in helping after seeing social media posts about Meals 4 Heroes.
“I think for us what’s been so nice to see is how supportive the community has been,” Weingarten said. “How many people have been willing to offer to help or donate. It’s nice to see America come together and rally behind helping.”
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