Health + Wellness Wellness

How FLAG Is Feeding Metro Detroit’s Healthcare Workers While Boosting the Local Economy

April 14, 2020

Started by six women from Bloomfield Hills, FLAG is fueling both healthcare workers and Metro Detroit’s restaurant industry

By Nicole Frehsee Mazur

Photo via flagmetrodetroit.com

One morning in late March, six women — friends and neighbors in Bloomfield Hills — jumped on a Zoom call. The topic at hand: How to help Metro Detroit’s medical community in the fight against COVID-19. “During a time when so many of us were feeling helpless, we wanted to focus our energy and make a difference,” says Lindsay Pollina, who was on the call. By the time the women said goodbye, they’d cooked up a way to boost the morale of healthcare workers across Southeast Michigan while also supporting local restaurants. They named their initiative Frontline Appreciation Group (FLAG) Metro Detroit.

Inspired by a similar group in New Jersey, FLAG Metro Detroit collects donations for meals from local restaurants and delivers them to healthcare professionals at various hospitals. (The donations are tax-deductible.) As of today, the organization has raised $145,000 and delivered 19,000 meals to 32 hospitals across Metro Detroit. It’s also paid out $99,000 to 38 local restaurants — no small feat during a time when the local food industry is suffering. “In my mind, we have created an incredible infrastructure that enables us to efficiently and effectively serve the front line medical community as well as benefit the local economy,” says co-founder Monica Toomey. (Other co-founders include Dani Gillman, Lauren Edgell, Laura O’Brien and Sarra Brinjikji.)

Aleko’s delivery to the VA hospital

Brass Pointe delivery to Beaumont Farmington Hills

How it works: FLAG accepts donations via its website, then uses the money to purchase individually packaged meals from Detroit-area restaurants. (Orders start at 50 meals, though the group typically buys 300 to 500 at a time.) FLAG pairs restaurants with hospitals based on location, and the restaurants — which receive 100 percent of the proceeds — deliver the food.

“The restaurants are putting their hearts into the meals they’re making,” says Pollina, who adds that about 100 eateries — including Social and Hunter House in Birmingham, Stage Deli in West Bloomfield and Moe’s on Ten in Novi — have reached out to join the effort. “They want to make sure they’re providing delicious food for the healthcare workers.” (Lunch and dinner deliveries take place at multiple hospitals every day.) The healthcare workers, in turn, appreciate the gesture. “We are always amazed by how grateful the hospital staff is for the meals,” says Pollina. “Even though I’m sure they’re busy, stressed, exhausted, and scared, they are always so kind.”

Vinotecca’s Easter delivery to St. Joe’s Oakland

FLAG has received donations from people all over Southeast Michigan. Most range from $10-$20, says Pollina, who adds that “no donation is too small” — but some individuals have contributed up to $1,000.

Businesses and religious institutions are stepping up, too: The Dailey Method and Practice Yoga, both of Birmingham, will donate proceeds from a virtual barre/yoga class on April 15 to FLAG, and Christ Church Cranbrook and Kensington Church have promised to match up to $5,000 of their congregations’ donations. Even healthcare workers themselves are getting in on the action. Pollina gives the example of nurses who have raised money from friends and family and sent it to FLAG with a request to plan a meal delivery to their unit.

No matter who’s doing the giving, says Toomey, it’s heartening to see individuals, organizations and companies pitching in to help. “The purpose of FLAG is not only to support the front line medical community,” she says. “But to give people a purpose and a way to give back in a meaningful way.”

Read more about FLAG at flagmetrodetroit.org and donate to FLAG here

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