A wide range of efforts is ongoing to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from free barbecue being handed out this afternoon, and military MREs (meals ready to eat) next week, to pizza.
Domino’s Pizza and its Pittsburgh regional franchisees said they are joining forces to bring “pizza relief” to hospitals, nursing homes, police stations, fire stations and other entities.
“We want to make sure we’re taking care of the people of the community,” said Sheldon Port, owner of 10 Domino’s franchises in such communities as Kittanning, Johnstown, Somerset, Latrobe and Indiana, where 231 pizzas were delivered in two shifts throughout the past week just to Indiana Regional Medical Center.
“We circulated them to every department at IRMC including (IRMC Physician Group) offices, our Human Motion Institute building and IRMC at Chestnut Ridge,” IRMC spokeswoman Laura Jeffrey said. “They were very generous.”
Port’s and other Domino’s locally owned stores are donating at least 7,600 pizzas, as the franchisors seek to deliver a difference to their neighbors.
“It’s at the discretion of the owner,” Domino’s spokeswoman Chantele Telegadas said. “We’re probably going to far exceed that in most of our stores.”
Not long ago, Port marked the first anniversary of his ownership of the Indiana Domino’s Pizza franchise. On Facebook he posted, “we practice social distancing.”
That includes a “contactless” or “no contact” delivery option, where a Domino’s customer can order online or by phone, prepay for the pizza, and a delivery driver will place the order one’s door and step away, allowing the customer to collect the delivery from a safe distance.
Additionally, he posted, “we are community strong and here for you!”
Elsewhere, Port delivered more than 225 pizzas on Tuesday to the Salvation Army in Kittanning. He said he’s still working on where else donations may take place.
“Some of the hospitals are a little more restrictive about bringing in food from the outdoors,” he said.
The Salvation Army has been getting some variety in its diet.
Earlier this week, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Feeding Task Force began tapping into Army divisions across the state to get food to tens of thousands of residents, through the Operation BBQ network of barbecue restaurants and food distributors.
“Operation BBQ Relief is connecting with closed restaurants, empowering them to open their doors and bring their staff back to work as partners in the newly established program Operation Restaurant Relief,” said Operation BBQ Chief Programs Officer Jarrid “Jay” Collins. “We utilize the restaurant kitchens and staff to prepare meals for their local communities.”
Under terms of a four-week contract, Army Western Pennsylvania Division spokeswoman Ava Henderson said, Operation BBQ Relief is providing 180,000 freshly prepared and pre-packaged meals per week to individuals, seniors and families in need.
The food is packed in boxes that provide enough to feed a family of four for four days.
“I am so deeply grateful to The Salvation Army and Operation BBQ for their work together during this difficult time and their shared willingness to help those who need it most,” Pennsylvania first lady Frances Wolf said.
Operation BBQ Relief will be in Indiana today. Salvation Army Indiana commander Capt. Denise Martin said 500 boxes will be picked up in Altoona and distributed at 2 p.m. on the lower parking lot of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
Operation BBQ Relief has partnered with The Salvation Army on multiple occasions since 2011, helping out during floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and, in this case, a global pandemic.
Meanwhile, Henderson said, the National Guard has delivered four large tractor-trailer loads of MREs, with approximately 80,000 meals in all, for distribution across the division covering the western third of the Keystone State.
That includes Indiana, too, Martin said Thursday, though details of that distribution are still being figured out.