Restaurants Need Income, Families Need Food. Two Marylanders Are Helping Both At Once Local organization Silver Spring Cares has raised thousands of dollars to provide restaurant meals to families in need amid the pandemic.
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Restaurants Need Income, Families Need Food. Two Marylanders Are Helping Both At Once

Restaurants Need Income, Families Need Food. Two Marylanders Are Helping Both At Once

A volunteer with Small Things Matter hands a takeout meal from El Golfo to a local resident. A Silver Spring nonprofit has raised $40,000 to provide restaurant meals to families affected by coronavirus. Roxanne Yamashita/Courtesy of Small Things Matter hide caption

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Roxanne Yamashita/Courtesy of Small Things Matter

Thousands of Washingtonians are now sequestered at home, ordering takeout from local restaurants. Now there's a way they can buy takeout for their neighbors in need.

For the past two weeks, the nonprofit Silver Spring Cares has been purchasing food from restaurants and distributing it to hungry Montgomery County residents. The organization has already provided roughly 3,000 meals to families, drumming up almost $30,000 in revenue for local restaurants that have been forced to close. The money comes from community members, who have contributed nearly $40,000 so far.

Liz Brent and Heather Foley — the organization's founder and executive director, respectively — are real-estate professionals with backgrounds in volunteer work. Brent came up with the takeout idea after seeing that Silver Spring's Denizens Brewing had begun delivering beer to households under quarantine.

"My next thought was, 'If I can buy beer for other people, can I buy a meal for other people?'" Brent says.

Within a few days, she and Foley had raised more than $10,000. That same week, they paired up with local organization Small Things Matter to distribute $2,100 in restaurant meals to the food pantries at Takoma Park middle and elementary schools.

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And they haven't stopped placing orders.

"This past Saturday afternoon, I was at eight different restaurants writing checks," Brent says.

So far, the organization has bought meals from Silver Spring and Takoma Park establishments El Golfo, Takoma Bev. Co., McGinty's Public House, Cielo Rojo, Campeon Pollo a la Brasa, Middle Eastern Cuisine, Mamma Lucia and Denizens. Some business owners say the money has helped with payroll.

"We're lucky that not only do we get to help make the meals, but also this provides money for some of our employees to stay employed during these really difficult times," said Takoma Bev. Co. co-owner Chris Brown in a video Brent posted on Facebook. Silver Spring Cares cut his business a $6,000 check.

"As far as what is really needed in our economy, it's kind of a drop in the bucket," Brent says. "But it's giving restaurants a little financial space to figure out what they need to do with their operations to be able to continue."

Meanwhile, Brent and Foley say they're getting positive feedback from residents who stop to pick up food — despite their immensely stressful circumstances.

Outside El Golfo, a Children's Hospital employee stopped to tell Brent about her situation. She was there to pick up meals for herself and her son.

"It's just very hard for us right now... I'm working a lot of hours," the woman says in a video. "Now I'm out here getting food from people who are donating, which I'm not ashamed of [because] I'm a single parent mom."

Silver Spring Cares is also working with Montgomery County's Health and Human Services department to provide meals for homeless individuals living in county facilities. At the same time, they're planning to provide 600 restaurant meals to Manna Food Center.

The organization is actively seeking donations on GoFundMe. So far, they say, local residents have been eager to help — especially those who are still earning income but can't leave the house.

"People are feeling useless," Foley says. "But when you know people are being fed and being paid, it's a sense of relief knowing that burden is lessened for somebody else."

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