CJSTUF in the Time of COVID-19

CJSTUF in the Time of Covid-19

It has been quite a while since our last major update but we wanted to let you know that we haven’t been idle.  Covid-19 has seriously affected operations for nearly everyone in the nonprofit world and we’re no exception.

Friday, March 13th was the last day volunteers were allowed at UVA Hospital in Charlottesville. The following week, they suspended all non-essential personnel activity at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR).  Almost immediately, conversations began with the  Child Life departments of both locations to see how we could keep the Meal Fairies program going, keeping the new restrictions in mind. The solution that became evident at both locations was that we would hand the food off to someone from Child Life and they would distribute it accordingly.

IMG_0599As the weeks progressed, restrictions around food delivery tightened further. Currently, we order most meals online or over the phone and pay the same way.  Roger wears fresh gloves and a mask when he picks up or drops off food and then hands the contents over to Child Life staff members in the designated drop-off area, sometimes never even touching the containers.  Every once in awhile, we can get food delivered by the restaurant, which helps immensely.

Many nonprofits that operate within the Children’s Hospital sphere found it necessary to curtail or outright cease operations, mostly because their services to the families depend strongly upon face-to-face interaction. This is nearly impossible right now. CJSTUF has been able to fill some of these gaps while continuing our current services, even through this challenging crisis.   

Delivery to UVA on a Wednesday!

Since the March shutdown we’ve been delivering food to each hospital on our regular schedule (once weekly to each hospital, plus a bonus delivery to UVA Children’s monthly), but have added extra deliveries to CHoR on Tuesdays and to UVA Children’s on Fridays, effectively doubling the number of people served in a week.  You, our generous supporters, have made it possible for us to do this by making CJSTUF financially stable enough to temporarily take on this extra burden.

We’ve been proud to help support our AMAZING restaurants and suppliers  but the extra activity also means our monthly expenses have doubled. Since the date for relaxing the restrictions keeps getting pushed back, it’s obvious that we will not be able to continue providing food for the families at this increased rate.  We will certainly continue to provide meals on our regular schedule, but we would surely love to continue the expanded service until our fellow nonprofits can resume their regular operations.

It is difficult to ask for donations from people who have already given so much and might be severely affected by the shutdown themselves, but that’s what we need to do.  What is the impact of a delivered meal? Our Child Life allies have told us many stories of the effect of the Meal Fairies:.

Heather Kinney at CHoR, deputized as an official Meal Fairy!

“Another huge success today!  The box lunches worked great, it was plenty to feed the families.  I wish I could film it for you, families grateful and staff SO appreciative it would make you teary!” – Heather Kinney; Child Life Specialist CHoR

“Everyone loved the…subs…The toasted bread and melted cheese were a happy surprise for several moms.  [There were] so many happy parents and staff afterward.  “Thank you” seems insufficient but I’m truly grateful for you.” – Pattie Carrubba; Child Life Specialist UVA Children’s Hospital

We also drop off fruits and veggies to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charlottesville and they are equally thankful: “We are so grateful for your donation…Our guests very much appreciate your continuing commitment to helping us ensure their health and well-being…” – Rita P. Ralston; Executive Director RMHC Charlottesville

While we love the thank you notes and expressions of gratitude, the descriptions barely scratch the surface of what’s actually happening on the hospital floors.

Families are feeling even more isolated than normal and stress levels are high.  Few, if any, visitors are allowed in and every little cough or sniffle adds its own amount of dread, especially for patients who are immune-suppressed. With fewer and fewer donations being allowed, families have fewer opportunities to realize that they are not alone and that people “on the outside” care and are thinking about them.  Being in the hospital can be exceptionally lonely.

Our occasional meals give these families and caregivers just a tiny little bright spot in their days.   A simple sandwich seems like a feast.  Our meals give hope, and we all know how powerful hope can be.

So this is what we need:  Meal sponsorship.  

Cookies make everybody’s heart happy!

Our budget has always been $300 per meal.  We have often been able to arrange meals for less than that but with everything needing to be packaged separately, costs for both labor and supplies have crept up.  We still get great deals from some vendors but we’ve never wanted to be a drain on the system and we are more than happy to do our tiny part to keep our partners afloat.  It’s like a two-way investment.  Everyone scratches everyone else’s backs (virtually, of course!) and the end result is the continuation of our mission to serve families in their time of need.

While we never refuse donations of any amount, we could sure use the $300 variety.  There’s a “Donate” button on every page of our website and on many of our Facebook posts. Can you afford $10 a month?  You can become a sustaining donor and have it withdrawn automatically from your bank.  You won’t even miss it. A $25 monthly commitment funds one of our meals each year.

Do you own a restaurant or catering business and want to donate food at a reduced cost?  Even if you could only do it once, it would be a huge help. Contact Roger for details regarding the foods we can accept and packaging requirements. 

Here are some of the things our amazing vendors have done for us, above and beyond anything we could expect:

Pepicelli’s Pizza in Ashland has been donating 20 pizzas per month to the Meal Fairies for years and didn’t bat an eyelash when we asked for subs that needed to be wrapped separately.

Subway (both in Ashland and Charlottesville) has gone even further beyond, actually providing subs at all hours and sometimes delivering to the hospital when someone wasn’t available.

Jersey Mike’s of Ashland has always given us a great deal and has supported us in other ways.  The last time we picked up subs, we were informed that April and June’s meals would be on them!

Christopher’s Runaway Gourmay is a food cart that sets up outside the Gateway entrance to VCU Medical Center downtown.  It’s probably the best food cart you will ever experience.  They have already closed up shop due to Covid-19 but still set us up with a special lunch that included separate containers for each meal.

Ashland Coffee & Tea made us some SERIOUSLY tasty lunches.  Owner Cate Hawks made them herself and basically charged us cost.

When I ordered lunches from Homemade’s By Suzanne in Ashland, I expected simple sandwiches and maybe chips but as they brought out the bags and bags of food, I knew we had been given the royal treatment.

Take It Away Sandwich Shop in Charlottesville also opened up just for us and, as always, included PLENTY of their special house dressing!

60814110333__995CA4BE-82EA-408A-94BC-9D713700B1B8All this effort, all of your generosity, and all of CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation’s commitment to make any family’s unbearable situation just a little more bearable has resulted in nearly 1,700 patients, family members, and caregivers being served since March 13.

We’ll keep doing what we can as long as we can.  With your help, we will.

Thank you. –Roger and Rachel

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