Women Team with Struggling D.C. Restaurants to Feed Health Care Workers: 'It's a Warm Hug'
Elena Tompkins had an epiphany around 3 a.m. in mid-March after a chat with a friend whose Washington, D.C. restaurants were struggling due to coronavirus shutdowns: Why not rally her friends to buy meals from him and other restaurateurs and then deliver the food to overwhelmed healthcare workers on the frontlines in area hospitals?
“I was like, ‘Everybody wants to support hospital workers, and who wouldn’t love meals from these restaurants?'” Tompkins tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
So the 49-year-old healthcare lobbyist shot off an email to about two dozen friends, and by lunchtime had bought and delivered meals to about 30 nurses at a D.C. hospital. And then, says Tompkins, “it took off.” Scores of people, many of whom she didn’t know, poured donations into her Venmo account.
With help from good friend Sarah Cannova, 44, Tompkins then started the nonprofit Feed the Fight, which has since raised funds to buy more than 10,000 meals for doctors, nurses and other medical staff at 20 hospitals in the region from some 24 restaurants.
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“When you order lunch for 75 people, that makes the restaurant happy,” says Tompkins. “And the response we’ve gotten from hospitals has overwhelmingly been, ‘Wow, people haven’t forgotten about us healthcare workers.'”
Tompkins and Cannova, who both live in D.C., find immense joy from this kind of reaction.
“It’s been amazing from top to bottom,” says Tompkins.
For the restaurant workers, “We give them a sliver of stability,” she says.
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As for the healthcare workers? Tompkins recently received a text from a nurse who asked about the upcoming week’s meal schedule to tell her fellow nurses and doctors.
“So I sent her the list of where the food would be coming from,” says Tompkins, “and she screenshotted a text she got back and it said, ‘Tell them this is the only light I have to look forward to in this bleak hospital.”‘
Adds Cannova: “They think it’s a warm hug.”