A North Shore woman raised more than $5,000 this week to provide meals of chicken, arroz con gandules, and sweet plantains to patients who are staying at the COVID-19 isolation hotel in Revere, after learning that the state was providing Italian food to a mostly Latino population.
“I just felt like it’s such a small gesture that could mean something," said Cindy Ross, a yoga teacher and board member at the Salem nonprofit Root, about organizing the fundraiser.
The patients staying at the Quality Inn have the coronavirus and do not need to be hospitalized, but they typically live in crowded housing and risk infecting their families or housemates if they return home. At the hotel, which is staffed by MGH doctors and nurses, patients can isolate safely with 24/7 medical monitoring. The rooms, the medical care, and food are free.
But the Inn is a complicated lifeline, requiring people to give up the comforts of home and the care of loved ones, and to stay inside for days at a time. The food has been tricky for some to adjust to: the state primarily provides meals from Spinelli’s, an Italian-American restaurant, but most of the inn’s 70 residents are Latino.
“They’re serving pasta and meatballs. [Patients are] asking for rice and vegetables and chicken," said MGH disaster nurse Jacquelyn Nally, who is the nursing director for the inn.
After reading a Globe story that described the experience of patients, Ross decided to help. Within 48 hours she had blown past her initial fundraising goal of $2,500, and now has raised double that amount. She collaborated with El Tipico, a Dominican restaurant in Lynn, and worked with Nally to figure out how to deliver the food safely to patients and staff.
On Sunday, El Tipico and Ross made their first delivery. They dropped off 90 meals, including alternative dishes for people who are diabetic and vegetarian.
“They’re very happy with it," said Nally of the patients’ response to the Sunday meal, adding that the food donation "really addressed a very compassionate piece of the patients’ needs.”
The meals will continue to be delivered on Sundays for the foreseeable future, and any leftover money from the fundraiser will be put onto grocery gift cards and distributed to patients when they are released.
El Tipico welcomed the large order; although it is still open for takeout, its catering business has dropped off steeply.
“That helped a ton,” said Melvis Salcedo, the general manager of the restaurant. Salcedo offered a discounted rate to Ross after he learned what the meals were for.
He hoped that the food, which he plated himself on Sunday, would mean something to patients who aren’t feeling well and miss home-cooked meals.
“I think psychologically, you feel comforted,” Salcedo said. “You have an at-home feeling, regardless of where you are.”