Bristol volunteers and donors are sending 5-star meals to hospital workers

A team of residents mobilize to get some of Bristol’s best takeout food to healthcare workers battling COVID-19

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/9/20

The effort started a couple of weeks age, when Bristol resident Bernie Lambrese, a longtime healthcare entrepreneur, saw a news story about an effort in Washington, D.C. to get delicious meals to …

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Bristol volunteers and donors are sending 5-star meals to hospital workers

A team of residents mobilize to get some of Bristol’s best takeout food to healthcare workers battling COVID-19

Posted

The effort started a couple of weeks age, when Bristol resident Bernie Lambrese, a longtime healthcare entrepreneur, saw a news story about an effort in Washington, D.C. to get delicious meals to heroic front line hospital staff battling the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Lambrese thought that program would work well in Bristol.

“A lot of us feel like we are watching a war on television,” Mr. Lambrese said. “This is a way to help the people on the front line.”

The goal of this campaign is twofold: support the local restaurants that are hurting now and struggling for survival, and provide a quality meal for the healthcare workers who are taking great personal risk and sacrificing their family life in order to treat families, friends and neighbors infected by the virus.

Mr. Lambrese and his wife Kelly organized a campaign, Feeding the Front Line, with friends Roger Sherman and Rich Kulbeida. They launched their GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $5,000 to spend at Bristol restaurants to deliver to hospitals around the state. In a matter of days, they more than doubled their goal. At last check on Wednesday, the total stood at nearly $13,000.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the generosity of my neighbors,” said Mr. Lambrese.

Delivering hundreds of meals

They reached out to several Bristol restaurants, partnering with Leo’s, Le Central, DeWolf Tavern, Roberto’s and The Lobster Pot, each of which agreed to provide a high-quality meals for $15 each. They also reached out to Lifespan, and officials there indicated that hospitals were getting lots of unsolicited treats, but would be particularly grateful for heart-healthy meals.

They spent about $4,000 in Bristol last week, and delivered dinners to 200 front line workers at the Miriam and Rhode Island hospitals. This week they plan to deliver another 350 meals, to hospitals including Women & Infants, Bradley, Newport, and Fatima.

They have received great feedback from the staff that they fed. Dr. Gary Bubly of Rhode Island Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine, wrote “A huge thanks to you, Kelly, Roger and Rich! In a time of suffering and fear for many in the community, economic hardship in the restaurant business, and high stress for our teams, you hit a home run!”

Betty Ferreira, also of Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital, wrote, “As a person who resides in the East Bay, I was proud of what the folks in Bristol did. I am looking forward to going back to each of those establishments and sitting down with my family to enjoy their delicious food.”

Restaurants are thankful, too

It’s a program that is also much appreciated by participating restaurants. According to Jeff Hirsch, owner of The Lobster Pot, “Feeding the Front Line is such a great way to help the hospital staffs and keep us busier. Thanks to Bernie and Kelly Lambrese, Roger Sherman and Rich Kulbeida for putting this initiative together!”

Their description of the initiative on the GoFundMe site reads, in part, “When you go out to eat, you may spend $75 to $150 for dinner for two. Please consider donating what you would have spent on a night out to Feeding the Front Line workers: $15 will feed a healthcare worker, $75 will feed five, and $150 will feed ten. Any donation is greatly appreciated, although we realize that not every one of you is currently working so this may be a problem and we understand — but please consider sharing this campaign with your network so we can gain some traction. The more we raise, the more people we can feed and provide food in future weeks as well.”

Their GoFundMe page is accessible by going to GoFundMe.com and searching for “Feeding the front line Bristol RI.”

According to Mr. Lambrese, the group would like to continue their work as long as needed, and as long as they can continue to raise money. “I’m excited, and I’m feeling good about where this is going.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.