Working a twelve-hour shift in the emergency room as a front-line worker is stressful. Working in a pandemic on top of that is grueling.
Sometimes skipping meals can happen when working a busy schedule, but when working in the ER, maintaining energy levels is a must.
A local registered nurse created an appreciation group to give back to the front-line workers by ensuring their bellies are full.
“I started a Facebook page and within a week and I had delivered my first meal delivery… from there it just grew and created a website and have been reaching out to the local business to see if they would sponsor local deliveries,” says Tali Whelan, founder of Front Line Appreciation Group, also known as FLAG.
Over 5,000 meals have been distributed through the valley to feed front-line workers.
Whelan can do this through the generosity of community donation. She personally coordinates all the meal deliveries and menus with local restaurants, who are the ones who do the delivery. She does this about two to three times a week.
The meals are distributed to multiple hospitals like Clovis Community Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, Madera Community Hospital, and more across Fresno County.
“A lot of the cafeterias are closed right now, so staff have to prepare or bring something from home if they don’t, it could be difficult to get that; a meal to keep them going,” says Whelan.
Many restaurants have participated like Riley’s Brew Pub located on Owens Mountain Parkway in Clovis and Press Box Sports Grill on Herndon Ave, also in Clovis.
“It’s a win-win for both we get to give, but at the same time, we get to have income,” says Tom Miller, owner of Press Box Sports Grill. Miller and his crew have participated in meal preparation three times and delivered them.
Due to Covid-19 between three of the Press Box Sports Grill restaurants he owns, he has 15 employees; typically, he would have 75. They hustle to get those meals out to the front-line workers even if only three of his employees put together 100 sandwiches for an order.
“I get to take care of people who are taking care of other people. I was an army medic, and so as a medic, I’m a giver. Some people don’t like taking care of people so being a healer is special and not being a medic anymore being able to give to people that are doing this, it’s filling,” says Miller.
When word spread about what Whelan was doing, other restaurants got on board, like Riley’s Brew Pub.
Riley’s Brew Pub is not new to charitable work. In the past, they have dropped off meals to the local police department and the fire department, separate work they do from FLAG.
“Let’s look outside of ourselves. What can we do to help people? Now there is a world out there that doesn’t revolve around you. I think that there is a lack of visibility of what’s going on and what we are seeing is really horrific economically for millions of people,” says Mike Shirinian, general partner of Riley’s Brew Pub and owner of The Elbow Room.
Shirinian said he has only received positive feedback. He said he received a call from a nurse happy to get a hot meal because the staff’s only source of food can be just granola bars with the hospital cafeteria closed.
“She’s a hero, and we all play a small part that we are very appreciative of,” says Shirinian. He says Whelan is the show’s superstar, reaching out to first responders and restaurants to make this all possible.
Tali Whelan said for her to continue feeding the Front-Line Workers, she relies on donations. She can take donations at www.flagcv.org or find the page on Facebook FLAG Central Valley, CA.