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Campaign Aims to Support Local Restaurants and Hospital Staff at the Same Time

by on April 03, 2020 5:00 AM

There is good at the heart of people.

These times are stressful. Locked in. Shut down. Working and learning from home. Quarantined. And yet, the human spirit – the amazing human spirit – continues to shine. For the duration of this shutdown, my columns will feature people who are doing good for the community. It may just be little things like helping a neighbor. Other times, it may involve big efforts that have a ripple effect.

State College residents Heddy Kervandjian and Karen Walker are doing something big and they are doing that something big right here in the Centre Region.

With governments limiting on-site work to only those businesses deemed essential, and restaurants restricted to takeout or delivery, local businesses are hurting. Some will not recover from the loss of weeks, and perhaps months of business. From our favorite eateries to the dentist that sees our families, the impact will be significant. People are being encouraged to buy gift cards, order takeout and to continue to try to support our friends and neighbors whose businesses provide the foundation for our local community.

At the same time, the people who work at hospitals across the country are under siege. Emergency rooms and intensive care units are dealing with or preparing for a surge in patients unlike most have ever seen. They are understaffed, overworked, at threat of being exposed to the virus — and yet they continue.

Kervandjian and Walker are working to bring the community together in a way that will support both local restaurants and Mount Nittany Medical Center staff.

Working closely with Mount Nittany Medical Center executive chef Craig Hamilton, Kervandjian and Walker have set up a program in which local restaurants will feed MNMC staff.

“All the money raised will go to local restaurants,” said Kervandjian. “Working within the hospital's guidelines for safety, the restaurants will deliver individually wrapped meals to the Mount Nittany staff.”  

The initial goal is to offer this service to hospital staff at least twice per week for the month of April.  The program has the opportunity to grow, depending on need and on support.

With donations from the community, the food service staff at the hospital will identify the number of meals needed on the designated date. Following required food safety guidelines, a local restaurant or restaurants will be paid from the donations to provide individually wrapped meals for the staff at MNMC on that day.

“The initial goal is to raise $8,000,” said Kervandjian. “This helps the restaurants. Hopefully this will also help to alleviate some of the stress on the hospital and let them focus on other costs.” 

Kervandjian is a State College native who got the idea for this program from her sister Lara Sahakian.  Sahakian lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and recently launched a similar program there, providing meals from local restaurants for three hospitals in her area.

Walker has taken on the role of marketing this community, restaurant and hospital collaboration.

“Heddy is my neighbor,” said Walker. ”She shared with me what her sister was doing in Florida, and asked me if I'd be interested in helping her do something similar here. I didn't hesitate. I've been so inspired by what other people are doing — sewing masks, for example —  and I'd been wanting to contribute something."

“People want to do something,” said Kervandjian. “It’s hard for the hospital to accept individual donations of food at this time. This will help both the local restaurants and the hospital staff who are always there when we need them.”  

The staff at Mount Nittany Medical Center will work with local restaurants who meet the strict safety guidelines.

“I think we are all feeling a little bit helpless while we are trapped at home,” said Walker.  “This was a great way to help beyond supporting local restaurants by ordering takeout for my family. This also gives people a small way to pay back those people who are truly essential.”

Community members can support the initiative through this GoFundMe campaign established by Walker and Kervandjian.  

“This community has a lot of heart,” said Kervandjian, her voice breaking. “I grew up here and have seen it over and over. There is a lot of good here. People want to support each other. This can help local restaurants and support our hospital staff.”


Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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