Hill family starts fund to help restaurants, support first responders

Posted 4/6/20

Vanessa Mullen, owner of Campbell’s Place, delivers meals to Abington Hospital Emergency Department staff. by Sue Ann Rybak Chestnut Hill resident Joshua Haims, 46, said his wife Melissa Haims, 48, …

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Hill family starts fund to help restaurants, support first responders

Vanessa Mullen, owner of Campbell’s Place, delivers meals to Abington Hospital Emergency Department staff.

by Sue Ann Rybak

Chestnut Hill resident Joshua Haims, 46, said his wife Melissa Haims, 48, and daughter Noa Haims, 17, a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, were trying to support local restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic by ordering from a few of their favorite restaurants a couple of nights a week.

“We ordered from two restaurants here [in Chestnut Hill], and El Poquito upon our second try was closed,” he said. “We didn't ask them why they closed. We just had a moment when we realized that it was more people out of work.”

That's when Haims, a partner at Deloitte Consulting, said the idea for Philly Family COVID Fund was born. The idea was to raise money for restaurants to feed first responders, service workers and families in need. In just 48 hours, with the help of Tania Rorke, a friend, who is the associate director of alumni relations at the University of Pennsylvania, the group raised $6,000.

Haims said the group initially wanted to focus on first responders who were risking their lives to keep people healthy, such as police, fire and medical professionals, especially those at testing sites. He said, although many hospitals and testing sites were thankful for the offer, they want to “reduce the number of people coming to them.” So they looked for other areas for those who would welcome the aid.

With the help of Vanessa and Rob Mullen, the owners of Campbell's Place, the Philly Family COVID Fund, delivered its first meal to the 14th District Police Department on Wednesday night, March 25. The fund provided a meal for each shift.

Thanks to Cosimo's Pizza Cafe in Chestnut Hill and Locals Coffee in Wyndmoor, the fund was also able to provide meals to the firefighters at Engine 37 in Chestnut Hill and Engine 9 in Mt. Airy.

Another group of people Haims said deserve support are what he referred to as “the second line” – the FedEx, UPS workers, post office workers, Amazon and other delivery workers.

“Without them, a lot of people who are at home would be struggling even more because they couldn't get things delivered to their home, and they would be essentially cut off,” he said.

In addition to providing support to first responders and delivery personnel, Haims said a significant inspiration was to provide business to local restaurants that have lost so much business since stay at home orders were issued at both the state and local levels.

“We are trying to keep restaurants open by connecting them with these organizations and paying them full price for their meals,” Haims said.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has already forced some restaurants to close, if not permanently, at least temporarily.

Amy Edelman, owner of Night Kitchen Bakery & Café, said the bakery’s sales have dropped by more than 60% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she had to lay off seven employees, many of whom have been with her for years.

The thought of closing the store made Edelman choke up, she said.

“I cannot imagine closing the Night Kitchen short-term or long-term,” she said. “The bakery has been serving the community for almost 40 years. It has been my wonderful, gratifying, and often demanding child for 20 years. It's the longest time I've spent in one place professionally, and I cannot imagine doing anything else, anywhere else.”

Many of her customers have supported the store by buying gift cards to use later, donating to their staff GoFundMe and Facebook fundraisers and paying for orders months in advance.

“I miss my customers ... I have laughed and cried with many of them – mostly laughed,” she said. “And they have shown their love and generosity with their loyalty.”

She said when Melissa Haims, a sculptor, and a curator, called to order 40 lunches for the volunteers at the Philabundance, she was thrilled.

“What a great idea: order food for volunteers on the front lines of the epidemic while supporting restaurants and cafes,” she said. “It was a win-win! While we are no longer offering full-service catering, we are happy to provide to-go lunches and breakfast platters for large groups. No one deserves a good meal and a sweet more than the healthcare workers and first responders who are getting up close and personal with COVID-19.”

Josh Haims said initially they started the fund to help restaurants in Northwest Philadelphia but decided to expand it to the City of Philadelphia after the response they received from their first fundraiser.

“We see Philadelphia as a family, and the government is doing what it can right now, but the scale of this is so big,” he said. “We need to stay together as a Philadelphia family, and this fund is intended to connect us. We are very sensitive to the human toll this is taking on people. There is a real need to make sure people can stay fed during this. This crisis is different than 911, and this is different than the 2008 recession. There are a lot of people who feel relatively helpless right now.”

He said the Philly Family COVID fund is a way for people to contribute in a meaningful way.

“So, when we come out on the back end of this crisis,” Haims said. “People will be able to look back and say we did something good for our fellow community members."

To contribute, click here.

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