Oak Park moms team with restaurants to feed health workers

$10,000 raised, 1,000 meals served

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By Melissa Elsmo

Food Writer

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a phone call with her sister-in-law inspired Liz Murphy, an Oak Parker, to provide meals to healthcare professionals working long hours in our local hospitals. 

Murphy's sister-in-law, a respiratory therapist, lamented having eaten nothing more than a small bag of Cheetos during a grueling 24-hour shift. Local grocery stores had been cleaned out of supplies, self-serve food stations had shut down and hospital dining rooms were closed. Hospital workers were facing severely limited dining options.

Murphy, a mother to an active four-year-old and with a career in advertising, is also a breast cancer survivor and knows firsthand the value of healthcare workers. Additionally, her sister is a nurse and her mother a former nurse.

Family connections and her personal narrative compelled Murphy to give back to the healthcare professionals and the behind-the-scenes-workers who keep hospitals running smoothly. She turned to the internet and made a post on Oak Park Working Moms (OPWM), a powerful Facebook group made up of nearly 6,000 members, asking for donations to provide a meal for local health care workers.

"I thought I would get a few donations and send some cookies to a hospital," said Murphy with a laugh, "but things really snowballed; it was overwhelming. We took in an unbelievable amount of donations."

Murphy collected more than $10,000 in donations given largely in $5 and $10 increments. With support from fellow OPWM members, Jennifer Phinney and Jill Wejman, Murphy was able to purchase far more than cookies. Relying on local restaurants, she delivered meals to 20 Chicago-area hospitals, with 50 to 100 mouths to feed at each location. Her simple idea morphed into feeding more than 1,000 hospital employees over the past two weeks including laundry workers, custodial staff, receptionists, nurses and doctors working on the front lines during the pandemic.

 "I figured I could kill two birds with one stone," said Murphy. "I could give a boost to our healthcare workers while supporting our local restaurants and the restaurants have been eager to help."

At a time when local eateries are fighting for their future, Murphy indicated many restaurants added extra food to orders, offered discounts and personally delivered food to the hospital.

Thanks to donations made through OPWM, Connie Brown of Brown Cow Ice Cream, 7347 Madison St., Forest Park, partnered up with Donna Fantetti-Slepicka of River Forest Chocolates,  7769 Lake St., River Forest, to provide an array of sweets to local hospital workers at West Suburban Hospital.

The donations from OPWM's were spread far and wide among both local restaurants and medical facilities. Here are more examples.

Cindy Summer of Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie,  119 N. Marion St., Oak Park, closed her bakery in response to mandated dining room closures, but put her skills to use putting together an array of pastries for hospital staff at Rush Oak Park. She did the same for Loyola Hospital in Maywood.

In addition to desserts, all staff members working the night shift in the pediatric ward, Pediatric ICU, NICU, ER and the internal medicine floor at Loyola received a full dinner from Eastgate Bistro, at 102 Harrison St., Oak Park, thanks to Murphy's fundraising efforts.

Brendan O'Connor of Big Guys Sausage Stand, 7021 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, used donated funds to deliver roast turkey sandwiches and potato soup to Northwestern Hospital last week, while Patrick O'Brien of Scratch on Lake, 733 Lake St., Oak Park, delivered sandwiches and assorted sides to Cook County Trauma Center. 

Fare from Delia's Kitchen, 1034 Lake St., Oak Park, went to Comer Children's Hospital; Tre Sorelle Ristorante, 1111 Lake St., Oak Park,  provided a meal to MacNeal Hospital, and Kettlestrings Tavern,  800 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, delivered to Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

Starship Subs, 7618 Madison St., Forest Park, put together a nice box of sandwiches for first responders at Loretto Hospital. Owner Paul McKenna said he made every effort to maximize the donated money by offering discounted orders to keep costs down.

 "These women are working moms," said McKenna, "and Elizabeth has taken this on despite being very busy."

McKenna's daughter works in the emergency department at an Oak Park hospital, making his desire to support healthcare workers deeply personal.  

"Everybody stepping up and working together is what makes our country great," said McKenna. "This is a hard time and doing something like this makes people feel better."



Email: melissa@oakparkeats.com

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Reader Comments

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Vicki Matranga from oak park  

Posted: March 31st, 2020 6:34 PM

how can we donate? The article didn't include a link to contribute.

Mark Hooks from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 29th, 2020 12:50 AM

I cannot thank the Oak Park Working Moms and Starship enough for their efforts to feed us on the frontline. I am an Oak Park working dad. As an ER nurse at The Loretto Hospital, safety-net hospital in the Austin neighborhood, we are under-funded and often forgotten. Remembering our staff lifted our spirits incredibly. Though our institution is just over the border into Austin, into the city of Chicago, this virus, I hope, will show us all that our collective prosperity and mitigation of suffering is closely interconnected. With increased short-term isolation, we will get through this as soon as possible! Health and wellness to all who read this comment, and to all of your loved ones!

Christine Vernon  

Posted: March 28th, 2020 9:24 PM

This is an amazing and commendable service that Oak Park Working Moms have undertaken. It is a long story, but in the past month, I have been an observer at Gottlieb, Loyola, and Hines Veterans Hospital. It has been one of the most moving experiences of my life. To watch the dedication and commitment that the doctors and nurses have and the gritty hard work they do, I had some idea before but now I have seen it with my own eyes and will never forget it. To begin seeing the hospitals when they were just normal functioning hospitals with routines and sometimes crises and then over the weeks see the coronavirus creep in and the preparations and adaptations the hospitals have made for the safety of their patients, staff, and visitors, although hard sometimes for visitors not to be able to see their loved ones, they moved to protect everyone as soon as the news was out about the Chinese experience dealing with the masses who became infected. I was wondering if anyone was planning on doing something like this but this is the first I read about this wonderful effort. Thank you. This is what makes Oak Park an amazing community. Where should people send donations?

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