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A man wearing a blue surgical cap sits at a table and smiles at the camera as he lifts a plastic utensil and has a to-go box of food in front of him.
Med Surg/Telemetry Clinical Supervisor Eddie Tribiana enjoys a meal at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.
Volunteering & Giving
April 29, 2020

Feeding health care workers and supporting small businesses

Wells Fargo provided a $10,000 grant to national nonprofit Big Sunday, enabling it to purchase meals from local restaurants to feed hospital employees in California.

For health care workers like Juanita Winter, a registered nurse and clinical supervisor, work can be exhausting and scary at times, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It gives us strength to know that the community really does know that we’re here.” — Juanita Winter, registered nurse and clinical supervisor at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital

“It gives us strength to know that the community really does know that we’re here,” Winter said. “We are receiving a little bit of acknowledgement.”

Every Wednesday in April, she and other employees at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles have received morning snacks and night shift dinners as an offering of gratitude for putting their lives on the line to protect patients and the community. The meals were made possible by a $10,000 grant provided by Wells Fargo to Big Sunday, a national nonprofit that connects people through helping. The money enabled the nonprofit to purchase and deliver more than 2,200 snacks and 600 dinners from local restaurants.

“The staff at MLK Hospital serve a critical community need every day but have stepped up even further during the present crisis,” said Justine Gonzalez, Community Relations consultant for Wells Fargo in Los Angeles. “We are proud to work with Big Sunday to show our appreciation for these vital front-line workers while also supporting small business restaurants. It’s a win-win.”

‘This says a lot about where people’s hearts and minds are’

A doctor on Big Sunday’s board had suggested bringing meals to emergency room staff who were working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, said David Levinson, founder and executive director of Big Sunday. “We were adamant about helping all workers, from intake to custodial,” Levinson said. “When we started reaching out, it seemed like the night shift got the short end, so we focused on night shift workers.”

Med Surg/Telemetry Clinical Supervisor Eddie Tribiana said it can be hard to find time to eat with a 30-minute break and not wanting to leave his patients to go to the cafeteria, even with another nurse covering for him. He added that it’s also hard to find food options during the night shift. “We can’t always get there in time before the cafeteria closes, so a lot of us either have to bring our own food or try to get food right before we come to work,” Tribiana said. “Having a meal provided to us, it’s really great.”

A man wearing a medical mask and face shield starts to lift a box with to-go boxes that is resting on a cart. On the side of the cart, it has the letters FNS.
Meals are delivered to employees at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.
“We wanted to go where the need is the greatest. It’s great when everyone comes together like this. We do this not because it’s a crisis but because it’s the right thing to do, and Wells Fargo has been right with us.” — David Levinson, founder and executive director of Big Sunday

Big Sunday requested a grant from Wells Fargo, a longtime supporter, to support its program feeding hospital employees. The Well Fargo Community Relations team suggested bringing meals to employees at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. The hospital is located in a medically underserved area and health professional shortage area, as deemed by the federal government, so Wells Fargo has committed to support it over five years with $1 million for attracting, training, and retaining medical professionals.

“We wanted to go where the need is the greatest,” Levinson said. “It’s great when everyone comes together like this. We do this not because it’s a crisis but because it’s the right thing to do, and Wells Fargo has been right with us.”

Lisa Baxter, director of major gifts for the hospital’s foundation, said because the hospital is in an underserved area, there is sometimes a sense that people don’t care, but the support the hospital received proved that theory wrong. “The community has mobilized around us, our front-line workers,” Baxter said. “To see the outpouring of support, it’s really heartwarming. When this started, we thought we’d have to do outreach on our own. I think this says a lot about where people’s hearts and minds are.”

‘It gives us a reason to hang in there’

The effort is also supporting local businesses that are struggling during the pandemic. “I’m just so happy we’re not only able to help feed these people but also to let them know how appreciative many people are,” Levinson said. “To help local restaurants is the icing on the cake.”

Norwood Clark Jr. is one of four cousins who own Darrow’s New Orleans Grill, a classic Cajun cuisine restaurant in Carson, California, that has provided meals to the hospital workers.

“Everybody is crippled by this insidious virus,” Clark said. “When you’re a first-generation family business, you’re navigating the business world paycheck to paycheck.”

Four men sit backwards in chairs in a restaurant as they look at the camera. Behind them is a mural.
Cousins Norwood J. Clark Jr., Ronald Washington, Ronald C. Smith, and Samuel L. Small Jr. own Darrow’s New Orleans Grill, a classic Cajun cuisine restaurant in Carson, California, that has provided meals to the hospital workers.
Photo: Razi Wilson Photography
“It’s given us a reason to hang in there. It’s amazing to provide these meals. These people, whether you know them or not, put their lives on the line every single day. It’s allowed us to be a part of it and give them extra love.” — Norwood Clark, one of four cousins who own Darrow’s New Orleans Grill,

After 16 years at its previous location, Darrow’s moved to its current location in 2016, and Clark has been working on reinventing the restaurant ever since. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the restaurant stayed open for a few days, but it cost more to be open than closed, and Clark had to furlough some of his 16 employees. Clark said he has tried to stay open while also mitigating risks.

Being able to provide meals to the hospital workers has given Clark hope. “It’s given us a reason to hang in there,” he said. “It’s amazing to provide these meals. These people, whether you know them or not, put their lives on the line every single day. It’s allowed us to be a part of it and give them extra love.”

Bunna Ching and his wife own Golden Donuts in Inglewood, California, and have provided hundreds of snacks for the hospital employees. Typically, March and April are the busiest months for the business because people receive their tax refund and spend more, Ching said. “We were anticipating an increase in revenue, but when this hit, it’s almost been a 50% drop in revenue,” he said.

In response to the pandemic and safety restrictions, the shop has reduced its hours, put up an acrylic screen at the counter, and only allowed for pick-up orders, but it has not reduced any of its four employees’ hours. Ching said if anyone was uncomfortable working, they didn’t have to. “We don’t know how long we can support our workers,” he said. “We’re trying to help out our employees as long as we can.”

When Big Sunday reached out to Golden Donuts about providing food for the hospital workers, Ching said they were glad to help and appreciative of the support for the shop. “It’s able to help us out and keep us going through these tough times,” Ching said. “It’s great to be able to help the health care workers and know we’re doing something to make a difference.”


Read other featured stories in our special section,“Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19.”

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