Good Works: When an ER visit turns into an act of community kindness

It all started with a visit to the Swedish/Edmonds emergency room.

“Last Tuesday evening my 7-year-old was playing with our pet guinea pig when it bit her on the finger,” explained Edmonds resident Tiffany Sjong. “It looked like it might need stitches, so I packed her in the car and drove over to the Edmonds/Swedish ER.”

They checked in at about 9:15 p.m., first stopping at a screening station to answer a series of questions to determine if they might be at risk for coronavirus. Given the all-clear, they were both presented with stickers showing they’d passed with flying colors.

And then the dreaded emergency room wait began.

“She needed a single stitch, but it was 1 a.m. before we were finally done,” Sjong relates. “While we were there I couldn’t help noticing how really, really nice everyone was. Despite all the work and stress, the staff were calm and made extra efforts to be kind and accommodating to us and all the other patients there that evening. You wouldn’t think these workers were in the midst of dealing with a major health care crisis — it seemed like business as normal.”

A catering assistant with Lynnwood-based Chef Dane Catering, Sjong naturally thinks a lot about food, and with St. Patrick’s Day approaching, Chef Dane was gearing up to offer a corned beef and cabbage special.

“That got me thinking, and it just popped into my head that it would be a nice to send some special meals to those great folks in the front lines at the ER,” she said. “So I called the manager at Chef Dane and asked if she could provide 20 meals to the hospital ER staff on St. Patrick’s Day.”

When Chef Dane manger Carol Anne Lee got the call, she didn’t hesitate. “Of course we can do that!” she told Sjong.

Sjong next went to friends and family to ask for contributions to cover the meal cost.

“The response was overwhelming,” she said. “Within a few hours I had enough to pay for 16 meals.”

Sjong next reached out on Facebook, asking on both her personal page and the Edmonds Moms page for help. “That’s when it really caught fire,” she said. “I got tons of community support, and in no time I had more than enough to cover the 20 meals.  Way more than enough.”

And so it happened.

On the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, the Chef Dane truck pulled up at the Edmonds/Swedish ER doors with 30 full-course meals for the hospital workers.

“We wanted to be part of this too,” explained Lee. “It’s a great idea coming at a time of special need, so Chef Dane is doing its part by donating two meals for every 10 ordered.”

As word spread, Rory’s of Edmonds and Casa Oaxaca reached out and asked how they could help. Together they delivered a combined total of 60 meals on March 18 and 24 respectively, 16 of which were donated by these businesses.

And it just keeps on growing.

“At first I was using my personal Venmo account to collect and disburse the money,” Sjong explains. But it soon became clear that this would need more than just her personal account, so now there is a dedicated GoFundMe page to take donations.

And the support continues to come in. Between the initial donations to her personal account and subsequent ones to GoFundMe, there’s enough money already on hand (along with the donated meals) to supply 36 meals per day for five days each week through April 20.

“This wasn’t something I’d planned on keeping going,” Sjong concluded. “In my mind it was just going to be a one-day thing, a way to help ER staff in the front lines and at the same time support local businesses that are being so hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis. But it’s turning into so much more.”

Want to help?  Just head over the Meal for ER Staff GoFundMe page and contribute what you can.

— By Larry Vogel

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