In the fight against COVID-19, local effort supports restaurants and feeds healthcare workers
By Matt Nagle
Like the rest of us these days, Rob and Myla Colbert are stuck at home, working remotely, wondering how, and when, all of this is going to end, and trying to keep up with the latest coronavirus developments on the TV news. Then about two weeks ago, they saw a story that inspired them to do something to help in this pandemic that is as simple as it is brilliant.
On the news that evening, Rob and Myla learned of a group of people in Washington, DC who are purchasing meals from locally owned restaurants and delivering those meals to local healthcare workers, free of charge to them.
“I looked at Myla and said someone needs to do something like that here,” Rob said. “We talked about it and it weighed on my heart. We decided that we need to be the ones who are going to do it here.”
Thus, Feed the Fight Tacoma was born. Myla stepped up to handle social media and Rob got on the phone with the group in Washington, DC to seek advice from them. Through the Feed the Fight Tacoma website, Facebook page and Twitter account, donations started coming in immediately to the tune of $1,300 on the first day. A few days later, it was raised to $2,100 and as of this week, the total is at $4,275 and climbing.
Now, over the past couple of weeks, the Colberts have provided nearly 300 meals to healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, and that number increases almost daily. Feed the Fight Tacoma has delivered meals to St. Joseph Hospital, CHI Franciscan’s local clinics, Community Healthcare Clinics in Tacoma, the Franke Toby Jones skilled nursing facility and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.
What’s more, their work has brought desperately needed business to the two restaurants that Feed the Fight Tacoma has partnered with: Stink Cheese-Meat on St. Helens Avenue and the Mediterranean Gyro Grill in University Place, with efforts underway to add a third.
“These restaurants are just getting killed with this shutdown and everything else, and the healthcare workers deserve to have the community show them some love,” Rob said. “It’s a great mixture and we can do good on two fronts.”
For Steve Ramsey and Jenny Smith, co-owners of Stink Cheese-Meat, Feed the Fight Tacoma has pretty much saved their business from closing.
“I don’t think we could have kept going without it for the last couple weeks,” Ramsey said. “Business has definitely been slow and this has helped us to stay busy and occupied and to pay some bills. It’s been a huge help to us.”
Stink Cheese-Meat is the very definition of a “mom and pop” operation, with Ramsey and Smith now the only ones there to do all the shopping, prepping and cooking after having to temporarily lay off their two cooks. They’re keeping up like rock stars for Feed the Fight Tacoma, filling orders for 200-plus meals last week and another 30-plus this week.
“It’s close to home for me because my wife was a registered nurse and so is my little sister, so it’s a cool thing that we’re able to provide meals for the people working on the front lines and dealing with this. They are truly essential,” Ramsey said. “I’m also looking in the next couple of weeks to how we can put something together for grocery workers because they’re dealing with this madness as well. You can forget about people that work at a gas station so you can get gas or work at a grocery store so you can have toilet paper and food.”
Rob said that he is sticking with just a few restaurants for now in order to keep it manageable and to give the restaurants maximum help.
“We wanted to start small because I’m doing this on my own and it would have been a logistical nightmare to be picking up food from 10 different places,” he explained. “My other thought was that if we had 10 different restaurants, for example, and we raised $4,000, that would be $400 apiece, which would help them pay their electric bill for the month but it wouldn’t keep people employed. If we go with a smaller target, at least to begin with, we can really impact those businesses specifically to help them pay the rent and keep people on the payroll.”
Consideration was also given to the number of people helping out. “We have folks who want to help, but my concern with that is we’re doing deliveries to healthcare facilities where this virus could be and I don’t want to take the chance of getting anyone infected. If things get crazy and I can’t keep up with it, which I hope does happen, maybe we’ll have volunteers who have already had the illness or not in a high risk category.”
As Rob waits to return to his jobs as a physical education teacher at Brooklake Christian School and soccer coach at Pacific Christian Academy, both in Federal Way, he will be keeping up the good fight with Feed the Fight Tacoma.
“I know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we just felt like we could run with this and make it work. It makes you feel great to see the healthcare workers eyes light up when we show them appreciation for all the work they’re doing and putting themselves at risk to care for all of us.”
At Stink Cheese-Meat, Ramsey and Smith are looking forward to life getting back to normal as well. In the meantime, they’re eternally grateful to the Colberts.
“The coolest part about it is that it’s just one guy who just volunteered to do it,” Ramsey said. “He saw something that he could do to help small businesses and feed all those healthcare workers. He’s a real cool guy.”
Feed the Fight Tacoma’s greatest need right now is for financial donations of any amount.
“If everybody could go to the Facebook page or website and share that on social media, a fire could take off at that point,” Rob said. “People who have donated have been really gracious. If people want to give a dollar, give a dollar. There is nothing too small because they add up to a lot.”
Visit www.feedthefighttacoma.wixsite.com/website and search Feed the Fight Tacoma on Facebook.
Stink Cheese-Meat, 628 St. Helens Ave., remains open for take-out orders from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Customers can either choose curbside service or come in to the restaurant, as Ramsey and Smith are taking every precaution to keep things sanitized and safe. Visit www.StinkTacoma.com or call (253) 426-1347.
Mediterranean Gyro Grill is open for take-out as well, and is offering delivery for orders over $50 within a five-mile radius. Two locations: 3555 Market Pl. W. in University Place, (253) 314-5122; and in Federal Way at 34024 Hoyt Rd. SW, (253) 874-1144. Visit http://mediterraneangyrogrill.com.