Supplying Frontline Workers with the Tools to Save Lives
From meals to medical supplies, generous donors are supporting our fight against COVID-19
By Nastasia Boulos
A s our health care providers work around the clock to protect the health and safety of patients, and the need for personal protective equipment and supplies continues to increase, members of the community are responding to the call for help.
Through gifts and in-kind donations ranging from hand sanitizer to shoe insoles, to custom-made masks and face shields, alumni, partners and friends of the University of Miami, UHealth, and the Miller School of Medicine are stepping up to provide a helping hand for our health care heroes.
“The support from the community means everything to our health care workers,” said Dipen J. Parekh, M.D., chief clinical officer and interim chief operating officer at UHealth, “They are all residents of South Florida who are tirelessly caring for others who have fallen ill. They are very appreciative of the good wishes, support and care being sent their way.”
The Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins stepped up to the plate by covering the cost of meals, prepared by UHealth Tower’s hospital cafeteria, for approximately 1,500 staff members recently, including doctors, nurses and support staff. Lunch and dinner were served to employees not only at UHealth Tower, but also at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
“With this rapidly evolving situation, we are dedicated to serving our community during these unprecedented times,” Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said. “This was a small token of thanks from the entire organization to the staff at the University of Miami Health System who are working tirelessly to keep our residents safe and healthy.”
The Marlins also donated 1,000 pieces of clothing, including jerseys and uniform pants, to make masks for health care workers. In partnership with #WRECares of World Red Eye, 250 Miami Marlins masks were donated to UHealth, which were distributed to employees for use outside of clinical and patient care settings.
And if these acts of kindness weren’t enough, Marlins leadership, including Jeter and team manager Don Mattingly, recorded a special video message thanking all of the dedicated UHealth hospital workers and health care providers.
Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz – The Fairholme Foundation
Three-time ‘Cane parents Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz showed their appreciation for the UHealth workers, researchers, and administrators on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a gift made through their charitable Fairholme Foundation, the Berkowitz family covered the cost of providing safe, nutritious meals to 1,500 employees at the UHealth Tower, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
“We wanted to find a way to let our UHealth workers know that we really appreciate what they’re doing,” Tracey said, “not only in caring for our UM community but for the community at large. We should all be so very proud of them.”
Longtime benefactors of the University of Miami, the Berkowitz’s have supported programs ranging from athletics to entrepreneurship to executive medicine. Their leadership gift in honor of then-President Donna E. Shalala resulted in the state-of-the-art Shalala Student Center Complex.
Tracey, who first became a volunteer leader as a member of the Parents Council before joining the Board of Trustees, has seen first-hand the efforts of the administration, faculty and staff as they prepared for and continue to deal with the pandemic.
She wants to encourage others to help, whether through a financial contribution, donating time or talent, or simply staying home to relieve the burden on health care workers.
“Part of the reason behind this gift is to set an example for my children,” she said, “and part of it is to simply be a member of the community. It’s now our turn to contribute to society.”
Karla Dascal, The Sacred Space Miami
The Sacred Space Miami is supporting an initiative that is bringing healthy immunity meals to local frontline health care professionals.
“These health care workers are working around the clock making tremendous sacrifices and often at their own personal risk to serve our community,” said The Sacred Space founder, Karla Dascal, who set up a fundraising page and mobilized part of her team at Plant Miami, The Sacred Space Miami and Paradise Farms as part of the initiative.
Fueling the project is a company mission to serve the community and a belief in the healing benefits of vibrant, organic produce. But to Dascal, it is also about spreading a core message of hope.
“We really are all in this together,” she said. “Love will prevail over fear. We’re stronger together.”
Dascal is also a donor to the University of Miami Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, as well as a community partner on education for the Osher Center, hosting a free speaker series four times a year on integrative medicine.
The Scholl’s Wellness Company
As health care workers spend long days on their feet, a little extra comfort can go a long way. Now thanks to a generous donation from the Scholl’s Wellness Company on May 12, frontline employees at UHealth received shoe insoles designed to provide added support and comfort.
“As a company founded more than a century ago by physician Dr. William Scholl, supporting the health care industry has been part of our DNA since 1904,” Scholl’s Wellness Company CEO Craig Stevenson said. “We feel it is vital that companies like ours give back in this time of need, and we hope this gift helps to provide a little extra support to those on the front lines when they need it the most.”
Dr. Scholl’s is donating 150,000 pairs of Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Work insoles to hospitals nationwide, and especially in the hardest-hit areas. “The company appreciates and celebrates the courage, sacrifice and compassion of those first responders who are there for us when we need them the most — our everyday heroes,” Dr. Scholl’s said. “Your endurance and selflessness inspire all of us.”
Kelsy Valencia and Christopher Fiandor – Miami Writes co.
Kelsy Valencia, a clinical coordinator at UHealth and co-owner of Miami Writes co, a small calligraphy and graphic design business, put her creativity to work for the common good.
Valencia, who founded her company with boyfriend and business partner, Christopher Fiandor, designed and produced special t-shirts and other merchandise to raise funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is donating 15 percent of the proceeds from specially marked items, including shirts with slogans celebrating the work of doctors and nurses, to the UHealth/Miller School of Medicine Emergency Respond Fund.
Within a week of launching the initiative through their social media account, the duo — who design and produce everything themselves — had sold more than 200 items.
“Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs.” — one of the most popular t-shirts on the site
The Dr. Brandt Foundation
With a simple “Thank you,” our supporters at the Dr. Brandt Foundation raised more than $21,000 to help provide additional personal protective equipment for health care workers at UHealth. Through April, they encouraged supporters to send a heartfelt thank you on Instagram through #SayILoveYou and by tagging @drbrandtfoudantion. Thanks to the Foundation, Dr. Brandt Skincare donated $1 for every Instagram share and unit of their Microdermabrasion Age Exfoliator sold. The donations, part of their annual #SayILoveYou campaign, will go to UHealth to help us meet the critical needs of our frontline health care workers.
The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation
UHealth employees at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center showed their “thanks” after the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation made a donation to purchase in-house meals for UHealth caregivers. Since March, the Foundation has purchased more than 6,000 meals for hospitals across the United States, including 200 at UHealth. They have also donated more than 25,000 PPE items and provided care packages for cancer families. Rizzo is proud to support health care heroes, particularly Izidore Lossos, M.D., the director of the Lymphoma Program at Sylvester, and his team. Rizzo, the founder of the Foundation, is an All-Star first baseman for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, a World Series champion, and a 12-year survivor of lymphoma.
Appreciation came in the form of small gift bags — filled with everything from lip balm to mini toiletries, to snacks, including chocolate covered pretzels and banana chips — from UHealth partner, Walgreens, to more than 600 UHealth employees. Burt Driver, Walgreens enterprise partnership director, says the gifts served as a token of appreciation for the health care workers. “UHealth is one of very few enterprise partners in the U.S. and we value that relationship,” he said, “We simply wanted to say thank you to all the frontline workers during this pandemic.”
The Shipley Foundation
Richard and Feyza Shipley are relative newcomers to South Florida and were looking for ways to get involved in their community. After learning about UHealth’s efforts in mitigation, testing and research in the fight against COVID-19, they made a $50,000 contribution from The Shipley Foundation to the UHealth Emergency Relief Fund to support relief efforts.
Gary and Judy Shaw
University of Miami alumnus Gary Shaw, B.Ed. ’69, has been hard at work giving back and helping others since relocating to South Florida from his hometown of Wayne, N.J. Helping out during these trying times is no exception.
In an effort to support the nurses and doctors at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, Shaw and his wife, Judy, delivered 150 face shields to the Lennar Foundation Medical Center. A week later, he delivered an additional 50 shields, this time with the U insignia, to Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the School of Education and Human Development.
But Shaw’s support for his South Florida community does not stop there. He also donated shields to the Miami Police Department, which inspired his grandson to use the money he had saved from his allowance to buy shields for the police in Bridgewater, NewJ.
And hoping to provide a positive outlet for residents locked at home for weeks, he organized and runs a balcony concert series in his Edgewater community. Various acts perform from the pool deck while people watch and dance from their balconies.
Still, he does not want the credit. “This is the story of a pandemic, and an alumnus trying to do whatever he can to help – both at the U and in the community,” Shaw said. “I enjoy giving back more than I enjoy receiving.”
Shaw also supports the Sports Ethics Debate program and lectures at the School of Education and Human Development. His dedication to the U is unwavering.
“For me, it’s about the U first,” Shaw, a former boxing promoter, said. “They gave me an opportunity in life, and I want to give back.”
“For me, it’s about the U first. They gave me an opportunity in life, and I want to give back.” – Gary Shaw, B.Ed. ’69
The Jeffrey and Jenny Charitable Foundation
To ’Cane parent Jeffrey Binder, life is about finding ways to help others. “If we each take just one step and help another person,” he says, “it can be life-changing for us, but it can also change society for the better.”
Through the Jeffrey and Jenny Charitable Foundation, Binder and his wife Jenny donated 280 gallons of much-needed hand sanitizer to the team at UHealth.
That donation and many others made by the Binder family were inspired by the quality of care provided at UM and given to thank the people who are on the front line.
“The quality of service that is being given by UM and the care for their patients is exceptional,” he said. “Lennar is a unique establishment in and of itself as far as the patient experience is concerned.”
The longtime attorney and businessman believes the pandemic is allowing the general public to see the role that first responders play every day.
“These are true heroes,” he said.
Soho Beach House
A day after receiving gloves to protect their team and members, Miami Beach hotel Soho Beach House closed in accordance with city mandates. Recognizing that medical professionals in the city needed supplies, they immediately reached out to the University of Miami and arranged for their team to deliver 50,000 gloves to UHealth – the University of Miami Health System the next day.
“Soho House is all about community,” General Manager Philip Spee said, “so when everything happened, we immediately wanted to help the medical professionals on the front line. The University of Miami has been a partner of ours throughout the past year on both membership and events, and they are truly an integral part of the community in South Florida.”
Divieto Restaurant/ Feed the Frontlines Miami
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread and restaurants were ordered shut, the team at Divieto Restaurant knew they needed to do something to help both their staff and the health care workers on the frontlines. Inspired by Feed the Frontlines New York, the team set up a donation portal on their site, allowing individuals, groups or corporations to purchase meals. The response, according to Emilia Lopez of Divieto, has been unexpectedly and overwhelmingly positive.
“To us, they’re the heroes,” she said, “and we just want to do an exceedingly small part in relieving some stress in their day.”
Mei Yu, Tropical Chinese
A longtime local favorite for classic Chinese plates, Tropical Chinese also stepped up to help. The restaurant is raising and matching funds to feed health care workers on the front lines.