Feeding the workers: An idea turns into an inspiring movement

April 2020 Posted in Community

By Melissa Wagoner

Sometimes all it takes is a single, great idea to start a movement – and on Friday, March 27 Andy Diacetis had a truly great idea.

“I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw a post from Shake Shack thanking Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan for buying lunch for a hospital in NYC,” Diacetis recalled. “I thought ‘that would be pretty great to be able to do that. I can’t afford it on my own but I’ll bet I could get a few people together to buy a couple of pizzas for workers at Silverton Hospital.’”

And that’s what he did. His first Facebook post was a simple request asking friends to support his efforts to buy a couple of pizzas. Within an hour he had raised $600. And the figures have continued to climb, with online donations streaming in, not just from Oregonians, but from as far away as New York, Wyoming and California.

“It went from wanting to buy a couple of pizzas for the hospital to having enough money to buy meals and snacks for essentially every group of essential workers we can think of,” Diacetis said.

And that’s where Feeding Silverton’s Essential Workers (FSEW) – a grassroots Facebook organization – began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of the essential workers are doing extra hours and don’t have time to shop or cook for themselves,” Vivienne Frankel, one of the group’s primary organizers, said of the mission. “It also provides something different to eat when most people are just eating at home. But I believe the biggest thing is recognition of what they are doing for the rest of us by staying at work, in high risk jobs.”

Along with providing meals, pastries, coffee and even treat bags to the many businesses and organizations who have been deemed essential, FSEW is also working to keep small businesses afloat during these trying economic times.

“I imagine it’s just a drop in the bucket for what their usual revenues are but hopefully it’s something,” Diacetis, the owner of a wine filtration business and the co-founder of 503 Distilling, admitted.

“I know what they are all going through. It’s going to be a really hard recovery when this is finally past us.”

Although FSEW is primarily a Facebook-based entity, they do rely on drivers to conduct deliveries, using extreme caution in doing so.

“[W]e don’t allow contact, so delivery is made by the service provider putting the food in someone’s trunk and the recipient taking the food out at the other end,” Frankel described. “In many cases, employees of hospitals and hospice have volunteered to pick up and deliver because they are already being screened daily.”

But no matter how the food gets there, those on the receiving end have been grateful – both for the sustenance and for the support such gifts demonstrate.

“I have done two deliveries, one was lunch to Silverton Hospital ED from Wooden Nickel and one was donuts from Gear Up to Salud in Woodburn,” April Newton, whose husband is a doctor in Legacy Silverton Medical Center’s Emergency Room, said. “Both were very appreciative and excited that people are reaching out and thinking of them… We know what the toll is, and most likely will be, on our medical staff and the people working the frontlines to support our community right now. I just wanted to be involved in something positive that can make a small difference for people.”

Such sentiments are common amongst FSEW volunteers, who are looking for a way to show support their community even if they cannot leave the confines of their homes.

“It’s giving me a way to help,” volunteer Briana Hupp said. “I’m a nine-month pregnant nurse with an immunocompromised three-year-old daughter and married to a career firefighter/paramedic. There were very few ways for me to ‘help’ during this… This gave me a way.”

With FSEW in its second week and continuing to pick up steam, the team is hopeful that this is one product of the pandemic that actually will outlast the virus itself.

“I hope we can operate as long as we are needed,” Frankel said. “Perhaps even beyond the pandemic. Perhaps people will better learn to appreciate these folks every day, not just when they are under such severe stress.”

“I want us to support all our essential workers to the other side of this crisis and beyond, as we reconsider living wages,” volunteer Dawn Tacker, added. “Silverton cares deeply. I love how we demonstrate appreciation for those keeping our town functioning in this chaotic time.”

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