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Vitamin Retailer: MadeGood Foods Expands Philanthropic Efforts to Ease COVID-19 Stress

  • By Riverside Communications

By Nicholas Saraceno

Canada-based granola snack creator MadeGood Foods is continuing to support communities and neighborhoods across North America during these unprecedented times. In response to COVID-19, MadeGood has donated nearly $250,000 in food and funds to Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), Food Banks Canada and Chicago,IL non-profits I Grow Chicago and Marillac St. Vincent.

This month, the company said it is ramping up its charitable efforts with the launch of its MadeGood Moments campaign. Designed to spread positivity and encourage parents, families and anyone that is currently staying at home, the campaign will provide easy recipes and stay-at-home activities for the entire family and a chance to win $500 every day in May, which began on Monday, May 4.

“At MadeGood, doing good is in our DNA and it has truly been our honor to support communities across North America with donations to food banks and frontline workers,” said Nima Fotovat, president of Riverside Natural Foods, makers of MadeGood. “We continue to look for ways to spread good and put smiles on faces—and we’re pleased to roll out new ways to do just that.”

With a goal of providing some relief from day-to-day stressors, customers are encouraged to visit the MadeGood Moments contest page to enter for a chance to win $500 and an assortment of MadeGood prizes. Winners will be drawn daily and announced on the company’s Instagram channel. Consumers are invited to join the conversation online by using #MadeGoodMoments on social media posts.

MadeGood Foods and its parent company, Riverside Natural Foods, will also continue to donate 1 percent of all proceeds to long-standing charitable partners, as well as meet needs for product donations throughout North America.

For more information, visit



Forbes: 8 Smaller Brands That Are Helping During The Covid Crisis

  • By Riverside Communications

By MeiMei Fox

It’s inspiring to see the growing list of large brands — household names such as Google, LinkedIn, Keen Footwear and Dole — who are doing the right thing and stepping up to help society during the economic and social challenges of the current global pandemic. The great news is that many smaller brands, like these six whose story Forbes shared in April, are also responding to the call for COVID-19 crisis assistance. Here are eight more inspiring examples: Lifeway Foods probiotics, BrightStar Care homecare, Baloo Living vegan weighted blankets, FastSigns International (which has pivoted to manufacturing COVID signage and PPE), Vardagen t-shirts, MadeGood granola bites and bars, Kenny Flowers leisure wear (which has pivoted to face masks), and Wealthchild.


Julie Smolyansky is the CEO of Lifeway Foods.

Lifeway Foods

Lifeway Foods is America’s leading supplier of the probiotic, fermented beverage known as kefir, and has been recognized as one of Forbes’ Best Small Companies. Kefir, a cultured dairy drink, has been popular in Eastern Europe and beyond for centuries. As emigres from the former USSR, Lucy and Michael Smolyanksy saw an opportunity to share their culture with their newfound home. In 1986, they started Lifeway Foods and sold the first bottles of kefir in Chicago. Two years later, they took the company public on the Nasdaq. Since then, Lifeway has grown and innovated while staying close to its family roots. Today, Lifeway CEO Julie Smolyansky is leading the way. In addition to its line of drinkable kefir, Lifeway produces a range of best-selling probiotic products, including specialty cheeses and a ProBugs kefir line for kids. The products are sold across the United States, Mexico, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the company has instituted the Lifeway Hero Award for production and warehouse employees – an hourly bonus program to show gratitude for those who work every day to keep the company going and make sure Lifeway products get to shelves. They’ve also reconfigured the production floor plan to make it easier for employees to practice social distancing, and requisitioned additional PPE to help keep workers and their families protected.

Beyond company walls, Lifeway is contributing to COVID-19 relief efforts through a donation of over 50,000 servings of their immune-supporting probiotic kefir. They’ve increased production to support increased demand and donations, and have mobilized refrigerated trucks to ensure nutrition gets to those most in need, supplying food banks, shelters, and health professionals working on the front lines across the U.S. Lifeway began donating to local organizations in early March and has since ramped up its efforts significantly, looking to increase them even more in the coming months.

Lifeway is also providing self-care resources to their communities. With gyms closed and outside entertainment drastically limited, they’ve partnered up with best in class experts in wellness and spiritual health, including tarot card reader to the stars Angie Banicki, Alex Rodriguez’s fitness studio TruFusion, and kids cooking classes with Chef Seamus Mullen. The brand is streaming content for free every day on Instagram Live in an effort to help people feel as mentally and physically healthy as possible.

“At Lifeway, we give because the health of our community is more important now than ever,” says Julie Smolyansky. “We’re so lucky to be able to offer nourishment and immune support to our doctors, nurses, and everyone on the frontline as long as there is a need. I have so much gratitude and respect for all the food pantries that are stepping up to care for their communities, and we’re proud to partner with many of the amazing organizations doing incredible work right now. There are so many incredibly brave humans who feel the call to respond to this crisis. What is sobering is how great the need is. For me, stories of scarcity and bread lines and crisis were stories that run through my veins. Stories of tenacity and resilience run parallel.”

Shelly Sun

Shelly Sun is the CEO of BrightStar Care.

BrightStar Care

BrightStar Care is a national, private-duty home care and medical staffing franchise with over 300 independently owned and operated locations nationwide that provide care to more than 20,000 clients. With the elderly being especially hard hit by COVID-19, BrightStar Care CEO and Founder Shelly Sun is taking action to ensure the safety of her clients and staff. The company is helping franchisees gain access to personal protective equipment (PPE) by spending $2 million to create a centralized fulfillment center for their franchisees, where they have access to gloves, surgical masks, N95 respirator masks, face shields, goggles, hand sanitizer and gowns. 

In addition, every BrightStar caregiver who will be caring for COVID-19 patients is required to pass a medical exam overseen by a physician to ensure they are healthy in order to care for these symptomatic patients. Additionally, these caregivers are then assigned to care for this category of patient only, so as to lower the risk of spread and contamination across asymptomatic and symptomatic patients.

“During this unprecedented time, we need to go above and beyond our traditional roles,” says Sun. “Our mission always comes first, and that is how we have been able to create a sustainable brand. We are still putting the mission first by being the best employer for our staff and best provider for our clients. We equip our nurses and caregivers with the highest level of training possible, along with necessary PPE so that they can feel confident and safe when they care for our clients. Additionally, we wanted to take the workload away from our franchisees by sourcing PPE so they can focus on doing what they do best – providing care to those who need them most.”


Elizabeth Grojean is the founder of Baloo Living.

Baloo Living

Baloo Living produces eco-friendly and vegan weighted blankets, linen duvets, and a Sleep Stone Mask designed to soothe stress and anxiety and help people sleep easier. The brand always donates a portion of profits to the Pajama Program, supporting the most vulnerable children in our communities at bed time. Additionally, Baloo is a carbon neutral company and invests in projects that offset their carbon footprint.

Founder of Baloo Living Elizabeth Grojean currently is raising money via this GoFundMe page to donate as many masks as possible to hospitals being overwhelmed by patients with COVID-19. Through Baloo’s international supply chain, she has access to manufacturers of face masks at a large-scale facility for export to the US. Baloo’s suppliers are able to provide 100,000 KN95 masks at a cost of just $1.40 each. With many healthcare systems currently paying more for masks due to the desperate need for supply, Grojean’s mission is to bring in as many masks as possible at cost to protect our doctors, nurses, and medical professionals on the front lines. She is working directly with hospitals in the NYC area to donate these items. In addition, Baloo has donated 500 weighted blankets, worth $84,500, to health care workers on the frontlines in NY, NJ and New Orleans hospitals.

“It’s time like these, when we feel most vulnerable, that we are reminded how inextricably linked our lives are,” says Grojean. “What we do for others, we do for ourselves. I’m grateful we’re in a position to be able to offer help. Helping hardworking doctors and nurses know that we’re there for them, both for better sleep and for personal protective equipment, is what we can do. We must all do what we can.”


Catherine Monson is the CEO of FastSigns International.

FastSigns International

FastSigns International is a sign/visual communications franchise with more than 725 locations worldwide. The brand’s individual franchise owners have completely altered their business model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They immediately began producing PPE and medical equipment including face shields, isolation gowns, testing site signage, intubation boxes, and more. As a result, hundreds of FastSigns centers in the US have been deemed essential businesses, for providing gear and signage to hospitals, public parks, mass transit and more.

Franchise owners are using their ability to stay open and their access to materials and equipment to help during this pandemic as much as they can. For example, Glenn’s in Dallas has provided 15,000 face shields for the Dallas Police Department and North Texas Hospitals.

“We’re fortunate to have a business model that has allowed our franchisees to be nimble and respond quickly to whatever their communities need the most,” says FastSigns International CEO Catherine Monson, who is also Chair of the International Franchise Association. “Broader COVID-19 sign products — like social distancing, germ prevention, operational and directional signage, and more — have been 90% or more of our business since early March, to the tune of 48,000 orders built. An order can have 5 banners or 15,000 face shields, so the numbers are significant. Our centers are focused on providing solutions to protect the community and help organizations run smoothly.”


Jared Ingold is the founder of Vardagen.


Vardagen makes and sells graphic t-shirts with carefully curated, hand-drawn designs. Since the company launched in 2006, its mission has been to celebrate the graphic t-shirt as an art form, offering experimental illustrations in brightly colored, hand-mixed inks. Screen-printing production is done in small batches so as to avoid waste. When COVID-19 hit the U.S. earlier this year, Vardagen responded immediately by creating a PNDMC line to keep its employees busy and also donate proceeds to help independent creatives who quickly found themselves out of work.

Vardagen’s PNDMC line is made up of several sub-collections with messages that do everything from encourage hand washing and social distancing to poking fun at the toilet paper shortage. Although colleagues and friends were skeptical of the idea of a pandemic collection at first, Vardagen Founder Jared Ingold pushed forward. “We’re a really small brand with a single store in LA, so we needed to act fast to make up for the lost retail revenue that we depended on,” he says.

Well, Ingold was right. The line has been a tremendous success. Vardagen has sold over 2000 pieces and seen online growth of nearly 4000% over last year. As a result, the company has been able to share proceeds of sales with dozens of freelance artists.

“It’s been really encouraging hearing back from people about how much the money we have given them has helped them. Also, it has encouraged them to keep creating,” says Ingold. For example, one artist Vardagen has supported through its PNDMC line wrote, “God bless man. I’m about to cry over here. It’s the perfect amount to help cover my bills and food for the next month. Thank you so much!”

“I wanted to make sure we were taking care of our own but also thinking of others during this time,” says Ingold. “The hoarding of products at grocery stores made me really think about how we can go too far into survival mode and forget about the people around us. I knew the coronavirus financial fallout was going to be a lot harder on freelancers than someone who is employed with a company. I also had concerns about how devastating this can be for people dealing with drug abuse, depression, and other situations. I was pretty sure Vardagen would get through this, as well, so I wanted to model an approach of taking the challenge head-on and working through it.”


Kenny Haisfield is the founder of Kenny Flowers.

Kenny Flowers

Kenny Flowers is a namesake brand that offers affordable beach and swimwear for both men and women. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the company swiftly transitioned its factory, launching non-medical face masks that are 100% machine-washable and sustainably made from unused fabric scraps. For every mask sold, the brand will donate a mask throughout Bali, where they are made. Additionally, 100% of profits are being donated to Direct Relief, a non-profit organization providing medical-grade equipment to those on the frontlines. Within 30 minutes of launching the masks, Kenny Flowers sold out of the first allotment entirely.

“As a small business, Kenny Flowers is determined to make a big difference in the US and the global battle against COVID-19,” says Kenny Flowers Founder Kenny Haisfield. “As the CDC now recommends that all Americans wear cloth masks in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, we are now committed to making tens of thousands of printed Kenny Flowers face masks to brighten days and help protect our customers, their loved ones and their communities in the months to come. Since more than 50% of our sales right now are charitable masks, we’re essentially operating a nonprofit organization within our vacation wear brand now.”

Already, Kenny Flowers has sold more than 10,000 masks, which means the company has donated more than 10,000 masks to those in need. In addition, they already have made a $5,000 advance donation to Direct Relief to get coronavirus response efforts into action immediately, with more to come as soon as production and shipping expenses are sorted within the next week.

“Feeling good and doing good go hand-in-hand for me,” says Haisfield. “I’ve always been a believer that doing good shouldn’t be looked at as a burden or chore, but something that’s incorporated into your daily life and routine. With my focus on this non-profit initiative, I wake up and the goal is clear: help others and the rest will fall into place. In a time when we can all agree it’s challenging to focus on work, this new mask mission has given me a new purpose.”


Nima Fotovat is the founder of MadeGood


Riverside Natural Foods are the makers of MadeGood granola bars and bites. As the need for healthy, shelf-stable snack foods continues to rise, the brand has performed well even during the COVID crisis. As a result, MadeGood has donated nearly $250K to four organizations providing essential services and relief programs in underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada.

MadeGood was born out of need, but with purpose at its core. As he shopped the snack aisles at grocery stores in search of healthy, allergy-friendly snacks for his children to take to school, Riverside Natural Foods President Nima Fotovat carefully read the labels. He noticed that most of the items lacked important nutritional values and many weren’t made with clean ingredients or with the environment in mind. So, he started MadeGood in 2013.

“MadeGood prides itself on being a purpose-driven brand that is family-owned (my two sisters are part of the company as well), with a passion behind making products that are good for consumers, good for the environment, and good for the world,” says Fotovat. The brand is focused on expanding the availability of organic products to consumers worldwide, sourcing ingredients grown by responsible producers in Canada and around the globe.

To aspiring changemakers, Fotovat offers this advice. “Ideas are easy to come up with. We all have great ideas. It’s when you get into action and work hard to make them into a reality that makes the difference. Grit and building long-lasting relationships go a long way. During these times, we can build great long-lasting relationships by helping others wherever we can. Pay it forward!”


Jercori Freeman is an author and the founder of Wealthchild.


In addition to being the author of the book The Art of the Sale, 26-year-old serial entrepreneur Jercori Freeman is also the founder of Wealthchild, an immersive online course platform where users can learn how to start a business from experts in a particular industry. Due to COVID-19, Freeman is currently offering his enrollment classes for free in order to help entrepreneurs both start businesses and keep their existing businesses alive. At a time when many business owners are ready to throw in the towel, Freeman shows them how to use out-of-the box methods to redirect their business model, adapt to major change, and grow more than ever.

Last week, Freeman helped a restaurant owner reach their monthly revenue goals by creating family meal food specials for the menu that could be delivered or made available for pick-up. He also helped a nail technician create an online virtual workshop that teaches women how to remove their own gel and acrylic nails.

Furthermore, Freeman is helping health care professionals. To date, he has donated more than 4,000 masks and socks to hospitals in the greater Atlanta area. He started doing this a month ago, after overhearing a registered nurse express her concern about her safety due to the lack of masks at her hospital. Freeman called around until he found a manufacturer. Just six days later, he loaded up supplies in a truck and gave them out himself.

Freeman got his start working with one of the fastest-growing financial services companies in the nation, where he was named #1 Sales Professional. Later, he started Safe Capital, the first ever 100% minority-owned, app-based loan marketplace in America. He has been honored by the City of Atlanta for developing initiatives to improve the economic mobility of residents. He has completed over $30 million in sales transactions, marketed to over 100 million viewers, and advised multimillion-dollar companies.




Grocery Business: Victory’s Kitchen, partners cook up support for frontline workers

  • By Riverside Communications

Victory’s Kitchen, a custom manufacturer of frozen and fresh kettle-cooked foods, has donated tractor-trailer loads of fresh food to food banks and hospitals in Canada and in the U.S. to help support people in need and frontline healthcare workers.

Allan Kliger, president of Victory’s Kitchen, says he and his team simply want to give back to people in need.

“It’s part of being charitable at time when people really need it.”

Kliger says his initiatives began when he learned that food shelters were in dire need of masks so the company donated thousands of masks to food shelter frontline workers and then decided that his company could also help with providing food to the same shelters. During this time, he received a call from a friend and neighbour, Robert Bielak from St. Helen’s Meat Packers Ltd.

“He asked if we could do something for healthcare frontline workers. So we collaborated on this; he provided the chicken and we made the fresh food and ended up running up a full tractor trailer of two products, chicken chili and vegetarian garden and lentil soup. Our first drop-off was at Humber River Valley Hospital and then we sent the truck to Mount Sinai hospital.”

Since then the initiative has gained traction and other suppliers have come on board to provide care packages of food to frontline healthcare workers at hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area.

“We plan to continue this and circulate through all the hopsitals. Each trailer is about $50,000 worth of food. We’ve also sent a full tractor trailer of product to New York state because we do a lot of business in the U.S.  and the food is being distributed to food shelters in the New Jersey area.”

Kliger says he’ll continue his donations during this time of need. “Supplying food shelters is something I don’t want to ever end and I’m happy to do it and it’s simply part of giving back to our communities. The tractor trailers of food for frontline healthcare workers will end at some point when it won’t be necessary. Right now it’s the right thing to do and we will know with this plan has run its course. We’re all in this together and it’s important that we help in whatever way we can. This is our way of helping.”



Canadian Family: Healthier, Shelf-Stable Snacks that are Made in Canada

  • By Riverside Communications

Whether you’re planning school lunches, going on a road trip, or prepping for emergencies, having a pantry full of shelf-stable, healthy food can make you feel better mentally, physically and ethically.

Shelf-stable food, as you may have guessed, has a long shelf life.

“Shelf-stable food (sometimes ambient food) is food of a type that can be safely stored at room temperature in a sealed container,” states Wikipedia.

It can be stored for a long time, but it isn’t necessarily healthy. The ingredients (and how they’re preserved) can have a big impact on taste and nutrient retention. For example, freeze-dried fruit will retain more nutrients and flavour than heat-dehydrated fruit.

You may find it tough to find truly healthier snacks that last a long time, so we’ve gathered up a few of our favourites below. I know Canadians love to support businesses in this country, so I focused on items produced by Canadian companies.

Choose munchies that are made with love by Canadian businesses and support the Canadian economy! Most source their ingredients in Canada as well, which supports local farming and Canadian suppliers. Double the economic impact by choosing Canadian retailers to purchase these snacks from, or buy direct from the company that makes them.

Shelf-Stable Snacks that are Made in Canada


Made Good is produced by Riverside Natural Foods Ltd in Ontario. They offer a delicious line of healthy snacks that are safe for schools, gluten-free, rich in nutrients, vegan, organic, non-GMO, and minimally processed. The fruit is freeze-dried, so it’s even more tasty and nutritious. This Canadian company goes all the way, supporting their community and the environment.

Each snack contains a full serving of six vegetables, and that’s welcome news for parents of kids who don’t like most veggies. In fact, I AM one of those fussy kids and I truly like the stuff! Some of my favourites are the Strawberry Crispy Squares, Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, Good To Go Strawberry Macadamia Nut Soft-Baked Bars (Keto certified), and Apple Cinnamon Granola Minis…which I’m eating for breakfast as we speak.


Naked Snacks is located in British Columbia. They offer a range of nut and dried fruit products with the goal of making good health taste fantastic.


Fourmi Bionique Granola is located in Montreal. Grand Granola includes a range of artisinal cereals that are locally-sourced and usually organic. Try their Nutbrown grain-free granolas, certified gluten-free and non-GMO. Perfect for Paleo diets! The Foodie Mix trail mixes are available in 3 gluten-free, vegan, GMO-free and sulphite-free delicious flavors. You can also pick up ingredients to make your own blends, including organic and fair-trade chocolate chunks, sulfite-free dried berries and dry roasted nuts.


Royal Nuts offers their healthy nuts and dried fruit snacks from Ontario. Their unique process applies direct flame and hot air, never oil, resulting in perfectly-roasted nuts. They’re peanut-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan, vegetarian, Kosher, and they have no artificial flavours.


SmartSweets are manufactured in Canada, with the brand promise to use no sugar, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. Their sweet treats contain 79-92% less sugar than traditional candy.


Three Farmers is a company owned by a trio of Canadian farmers, all dedicated to bringing sustainable, quality food products to consumers. Enjoy crunchy, roasted Chickpeas, Pea Pops or Crunchy Little Lentils in several mouth-watering flavours.


Viva vegetable snacks (Quebec’s Yum Yum brand) have it all with their fun shapes, light and crunchy texture, and authentic flavour. They’re made from 100% natural ingredients, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach and potatoes, which shows up in their natural colors. They’re also cooked in canola oil, which is low in saturated fat. Choose from crispy Vegetable Triangles, Vegetable Snacks and Vegetable Sticks.


Spokes air-puffed potato snacks are made in Calgary. I became a Spokes fan the minute I popped one into my mouth, a couple of years ago. They’re puffed using hot air, not oil. Then, they’re misted with sunflower oil and seasoned with a bold range of flavours, from traditional to unique tastes. These snacks are every bit as satisfying as regular potato chips, and there’s only 40 calories in each cup!

DIY Shelf-Stable Snacks

You can also make your own shelf-stable snacks! We have directions and recipes for you in our Food Preservation Guide IV: Dehydrating Tips and Recipes.

??? What is your favourite shelf-stable snack that supports good health through natural nutrition?




Vancouver Sun: COVID-19: Hospital workers say donations make coming to work ‘a little bit easier’

  • By Riverside Communications

By Lori Culbert

Workers in a health-care facility

Workers in a health-care facility near VGH get a meal from Feed the Frontline. / PNG

Dr. Amber Galbraith and her fellow anesthesiologists at Vancouver General Hospital must insert breathing tubes down the airways of many of B.C.’s most ill COVID-19 patients, a complex medical procedure that often leaves them covered in spittle that carries the contagious virus.

“It puts us at the most risk of contamination, since we are inches away from the airway and we are generating aerosols (droplets in the air). We are doing our best with PPE, which is different layers that we put on our bodies to try to protect our skin from getting the virus spread onto it,” Galbraith said.

“But despite our best efforts we will still have contamination on our bodies when we are done this procedure.”

To try to avoid becoming infected, VGH anesthesiologists shower after each intubation of a COVID-19 patient, but as a result shampoo and soap were quickly running out in the hospital’s bathrooms. Galbraith made one phone call, to pharmacist Henry Huang who owns a Shoppers Drug Mart on Main Street in Vancouver, and that very same day was given two giant boxes of shampoo, conditioner and body wash for the staff.

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Galbraith is very grateful to Huang, who she describes as routinely philanthropic. “It is so nice to know that we have the support from our community, helping to take care of front-line workers. It really goes a long way.”

Dr. Amber Galbraith

Dr. Amber Galbraith at Vancouver General Hospital. FRANCIS GEORGIAN/PNG

Free meals have also been sent to VGH, she said, which has been invaluable for some of her colleagues.

“I know that a lot of us are spending many more hours in the hospital than we normally do and some of us are isolating ourselves from our families, depending on our risk exposures. So for some people it is very, very important and it is definitely appreciated.”

After Galbraith contacted Postmedia to praise Huang’s pharmacy for its donation, we wondered what was happening at other Metro Vancouver hospitals. It turns out that in addition to banging pots at 7 p.m. to show their appreciation and donating much-needed medical supplies, Metro Vancouver residents have shown their gratitude for health workers during the COVID-19 crisis with many other acts of kindness.

New toothbrushes, 300 pairs of SAXX underwear, bouquets of flowers, boxes of Girl Guide cookies, and La-Z-Boy chairs for staff lounges are among the items that have shown up at various hospitals.

The recipients — including medical workers, janitors, laundry staff and security guards — say the generosity has helped them through difficult days.

“It really makes coming to work feel just a little bit easier,” said Spencer Driedger, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Lions Gate Hospital.

“Every health-care worker has different stresses at home, like they are nervous of taking the virus home or they are under financial stress, so coming to work and having that extra support from the community, it means so much.”

Lions Gate Hospital ER nurses

Lions Gate Hospital ER nurses with some of the 300 pairs of SAXX underwear donated to the hospital. SUBMITTED

Driedger is in awe of the many local businesses that sent donations despite struggling financially due to COVID-19. And she said the 7 p.m. cheering is so important to her, especially on days when she is down.“There’s been highs and lows. Some days I’m really optimistic and feel the energy from the community. And then there are other days when I’m getting into that spiral of fear,” she said.“But the 7 p.m. cheer is a moment I look forward to each and every day. It’s such a powerful moment and I’ve seen so many health-care workers brought to tears. It is profoundly moving to experience all these people standing there cheering for you and showing their gratitude.”

Boy raises $4,000 for snacks

One touching example of community support at Driedger’s hospital is the thoughtfulness of nine-year-old Bear Yeung, who decided just over a week ago to spend his life savings of $70 on electrolyte drinks and healthy granola bars for the medical staff. His parents pitched in some more money, and the next day he delivered a large shipment of snacks to the North Vancouver hospital.

“I kept on thinking about how much the doctors are fighting to save lives, so they need some energy,” said Bear, a Grade 4 student at West Vancouver’s Collingwood school.

“Healthy snacks can help, so they can stay healthy and can continue doing their job well.”

Bear Yeung,

Bear Yeung, 9, with his second donation in less than a week, of healthy snacks for workers at Lions Gate Hospital. JASON PAYNE/PNG

But when his parents explained the pandemic would go on indefinitely, Bear decided to expand his charity work. In just four days, he raised $4,000 after contacting his father’s friends, phoning the CEOs of companies such as MadeGood organic bars, and through a GoFundMe page.He spoke directly to the hospital foundation to find out what snacks were most wanted by the staff, and delivered a second shipment on Wednesday. And the young boy, who has donated to the hospital even before the COVID crisis, plans to keep going.“It’s just like a war. It’s not like one day and you are done. No. It is continuous,” Bear said.

Bear is proof that there is “no age barrier” to who can donate, said Judy Savage, president of the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation.“It’s just so heartwarming to see how everybody is trying to do their little bit to help,” she said. “People who are donating cash, it’s $5, $10, all the way up to $100,000.”On the North Shore, some school PACs (parent advisory councils) donated the masks and gloves from their emergency earthquake preparedness kits. The hospital received baby monitors to help people in isolation communicate. The Sleep Shop sent five mattresses, duvets and pillows so a hospital boardroom could be turned into a makeshift bedroom for workers to nap.

Lions Gate Hospital rehab workers

Lions Gate Hospital rehab workers receive a free meal from A&W. SUBMITTED

And the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation has offered to pay for hotel rooms for anyone at the hospital who works directly with COVID-19 patients and can’t go home.“Some of them are isolated from their families. They have older parents at home, or they have children, and they don’t want to risk — if they are carrying the virus — spreading it to their families,” Savage explained.“(This generosity) is transformational for them. I think it makes a huge difference. They are putting their lives on the line, and to know the community is behind them in this way is very, very meaningful.”

Lions Gate also received 5,000 N95 masks from Best Buy, but is still looking for more as no one knows how long the pandemic will last. “We are preparing for the worst, and every single hospital is grappling to get these supplies,” Savage said.

She also hopes that this flurry of feel-good donations will carry on, and not wane.The Lions Gate Foundation, like most others in B.C., has strict rules about how donations, especially food, can be prepared and dropped off, so donors should reach out first through the agency’s website.

Feeding the front-line workers

Two people who are increasing, not decreasing, their plans to support hospitals are Christoph Barrow and Michael Tran, the owners of Pacific Poke restaurants, who created the Feed the Frontline movement. They have raised more than $68,000 in just two weeks through a GoFundMe page, and have used the money to pay about a dozen financially stressed local restaurants to cook meals for workers at 14 health-care sites in Metro Vancouver.

Workers at St. Paul’s Hospital

Workers at St. Paul’s Hospital get a free breakfast from Feed the Frontline, an initiative started by the owners of Pacific Poke restaurants. SUBMITTED

Barrow says health workers are extremely grateful for yummy nourishment at such a difficult time.“They are scared. I’ve talked to some doctors and nurses who are living in their garages because they don’t want to contaminate their families. So we want to make sure they are fed and don’t have to worry about food.”Feed the Frontline has grown so that now roughly 250 meals per day are being delivered, and Barrow believes two dozen restaurants could soon be involved if donations from the public continue — a financial lifeline for both this initiative and for the struggling restaurants, too.

Ten volunteer drivers deliver the meals — and eight of them are nurses who help out when they are off-shift from the hospitals. Barrow didn’t ask them, but they insisted. “They say we love your program, and we get the meals in the hospitals, so we want to help on the other end.”

One VGH nurse told Barrow her co-workers are so grateful for Feed the Frontline, and also grateful to have a paycheque at a time when unemployment is so high, that they are making food-bank donations whenever they receive a free meal.“And St. Paul’s is setting up a similar program as well,” Barrow said. “That is absolutely amazing that the whole community is coming together, and when something good is happening to them they are helping someone else.”On Thursday, the B.C. Nurses’ Union said it had donated $10,000 to Food Banks BC because “nurses are grateful for the support they’ve received during the pandemic.”

Workers in the maternity department at Ridge Meadows hospital

Workers in the maternity department at Ridge Meadows hospital get treats delivered from Subway. SUBMITTED

‘Heroes Work Here’

At the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation, development officer Deanna Lackey is keeping a spreadsheet to ensure the flood of donations is being equally distributed among hospital staff. During an interview this week, 100 burritos had just arrived in individually wrapped containers that must be wiped down before being distributed to the staff.

“That is what is keeping them motivated, knowing that they are truly appreciated,” she said.

Telus donated 40 litres of hand sanitizer. The Maple Meadows Brewing Company has dedicated proceeds from the sales of a popular beer to the hospital foundation. Local restaurants are asking customers if they want to add one more meal to their takeout order so it can be sent to the hospital. Someone planted a giant “Heroes Work Here” sign in front of the Maple Ridge hospital.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Lackey said “People want to say thank you and do something to help.”
Ridge Meadows hospital workers.

Staff at Johnston Meier Insurance pooled their money to buy these snacks for Ridge Meadows hospital workers.

When asked what else the public can do to help hospital workers, Galbraith, the VGH anesthesiologist, said the most important thing is to stay home.

“We are doing our best in the hospitals to make sure that our staff members are protected with PPE and have the capacity to do things like shower after aerosol-generating procedures,” she said.

“But my biggest request for people in the community to help is to stay home and limit the transmission of this disease.”