Together, we’ve made a difference.
Thanks to the generosity of 650 individual donors and the partnership of the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers and Forgotten Harvest, the latest edition of Top 10 Cares, the Free Press’ effort to feed health care workers and needy people while supporting some of our favorite local restaurants, brought in more than $207,000 in just over two weeks. That’s more than double the fundraising goal we set at the beginning of December.
That money went directly into the dwindling coffers of more than 20 of metro Detroit’s most beloved restaurants. They used it to provide more than 10,000 free, high-quality, scratch-made meals for local hospital workers and our hungry neighbors.
“It came at the perfect time because that was right when we shut down again and right as we were having to lay people off,” said Mike Ransom, chef-owner of three Ima noodle restaurants in Detroit and Madison Heights. “It allowed us to keep on twice as many hourly staff as we’d otherwise been able to, knowing that we had a little extra help to buffer our payroll for two or three periods.”
Meals were delivered in the days between Christmas and New Year’s, normally one of the busiest weeks of the year for the hospitality industry — but not so in 2020 as dining rooms remained shuttered amid the protracted COVID-19 pandemic.
“This program literally is like saving us and the employees and rent and everything,” said Balkan House proprietor Juma Ekic. “Usually, December is a good month for restaurants to make money, and this is going to put us back on the right track.”
Known as RescueDetroit Restaurants + Feed Health Care Heroes & Those In Need, the December initiative was the second such fundraiser in 2020 led by the Free Press and our partners.
Ekic said the boost from the first initiative in April helped her retain all of her staff throughout the pandemic. Now she, like a few of the other participating restaurants, is paying it forward by sharing a portion of her meal allotment with another struggling business.
Ekic is giving 82 meals to Baobab Fare, a long-delayed east African cafe from a husband-and-wife pair of Burundian refugees. The cafe hit another snag just before a planned December opening, so Ekic offered the owners kitchen space and the chance to make $20 per meal.
That spirit of community marks the entire effort, which is the brainchild of Aimie Rosner and her marketing team at michigan.com.
“She’s been our surrogate mother through this whole thing,” Ransom said of Rosner. “Just to hear everybody’s voices, the chefs and restaurant people on the calls with her sharing how successful it had been and then getting on calls and hearing how grateful people were, it was definitely a bright point of the whole shutdown.”
Rosner jumped to work the moment the pandemic hit, wrangling stakeholders and setting up systems to make everything happen.
Combined, the April and December efforts pumped just shy of $375,000 into the hard-hit local restaurant industry and provided roughly 20,000 meals to those who needed them most.
“You don’t feel so alone in the battle against this pandemic when you receive support from the community,” said Maureen Bennett, director of care experience at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. “Our front-line staff have been caring for our patients and fighting this virus for nine months. A hearty meal gives them energy and a smile that carries them through the rest of their shift knowing that the community supports them.”
Jennifer Shepley, a registered nurse at DMC Children’s Hospital, echoed Bennett’s sentiment.
“When restaurant owners and staff take the time to prepare meals and deliver them straight to the front lines, we can’t help but smile under our masks,” Shepley said. “Nothing means more than people taking the time to support and care for each other. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts and thank you for standing with us in this fight.”
Many thanks are owed for the success of this program, not least of which goes to the Cotton family of Grosse Pointe. They donated $75,000 in the spring and an additional $75,000 in December.
Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, Sysco, Heritage Global Inc. and Hamilton Chevrolet are also owed gratitude for their generous donations.
And, of course, thanks should go to the individual and sometimes anonymous donors who gave whatever they could — $5 or $500 — every little bit helping to ease the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic for three of the communities most affected by the virus.
Participating restaurants are all recent alumni of the Detroit Free Press/Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Restaurant of the Year and Best New Restaurants program.
- Balkan House, Hamtramck
- Casa Pernoi, Birmingham
- Chartreuse, Detroit
- Folk, Detroit
- Grey Ghost, Detroit
- Hazel Ravines & Downtown, Birmingham
- Ima, Detroit
- Lady of the House, Detroit
- La Noria, Detroit
- Leila, Detroit
- Mabel Gray, Hazel Park
- Marrow, Detroit
- M Cantina, Dearborn
- Norma G’s, Detroit
- Saffron De Twah, Detroit
- San Morello, Detroit
- SheWolf, Detroit
- Takoi, Detroit
- Voyager, Ferndale
- Wright & Co., Detroit
- Yum Village, Detroit
Local hospitals that received meals include:
- DMC Children’s Hospital, Detroit
- Beaumont, Farmington Hills
- John D. Dingell VA Hospital, Detroit
- St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Pontiac
- Mercy Primary Care, Detroit
- DMC-Huron Valley, Commerce
- Henry Ford, Macomb
- Acension Macomb-Oakland, Warren & Madison Heights
- Ascension Providence, Rochester Hills
- St. Mary Mercy Hospital, Livonia
Forgotten Harvest assisted with distribution of meals to these local partners:
- Alternative 4 Girls
- Emmanuel House Vets
- Core City
- Really Living Corp
- Safe Place Vets
- Body of Christ
- Church of God Mount Assembly
- Anne Visger
- Jesus Tabernacle
- Oak Park