SARATOGA SRPINGS — What started with four women wanting to feel helpful in their community amid COVID-19 turned into the group called Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) Saratoga.
FLAG Saratoga is a group dedicated towards raising donations for the Saratoga Hospital, who in returns purchases meals from local restaurants and eateries. All food purchases will provide shift meals for those working on the front lines of COVID-19. Co-founders Lisa Munter, Becky Kern, Nadine Burke and Andrea Macy developed the idea together after hearing about a similar group in New Jersey.
Burke noticed her friend in New Jersey create a FLAG in her area, and felt the Saratoga community needed a similar idea.
“I know there are so many giving generous people who want to help the workers at Saratoga Hospital,” Burke said. “We also have amazing restaurants and eateries who I know are hurting right now with the closures and restrictions. That’s really how it started.”
Burke was inspired even more after learning the amount of stress front line workers at the hospital and clinic were going through. After passing the idea through a couple of friends who jumped on board, the group was born. Kern said the four women previously knew each other as friends, mothers and involved citizens. FLAG Saratoga was launched on April 4 and within 48 hours raised $6,500 for meals.
“What we’re asking people to do right now is just to help us raise money. The way it works is that we are linking directly to the Saratoga Hospital foundation page so everything is already set up for them to take donations directly,” Kern said.
When Macy joined FLAG, said she took the initiative to reach out to the hospital to ask if they were willing to participate and if saw FLAG as something that could help their organization. Macy said they openly embraced the idea and felt appreciative. At the time, the hospital was receiving calls from individuals and families asking if they could provide a meal and donate it to different worker shifts.
“I think they appreciated having a centralized function to be able to mobilize this operation and give it some structure…I think that’s the best thing about this,” Macy said. “You feel so helpless but you want to be helpful, so this give people a mechanisms in which to do that and participate.”
Macy said once a donation is made to the hospital, they would reach out to participating restaurants and eateries to set up meals by shift count. Constantly re-organizing on a daily basis, hospital workers understand what their needs are from a shift and personnel standpoint and can base orders on such. The restaurant then directly delivers the meals.
“I feel helpful. It’s really gratifying to be able to give back and to give a mechanism to help people do that as well,” Macy said.
While Macy spoke with the hospital, Munter reached out to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce to discover what restaurants were still offering take-out and would be able to participate.
“Part of what I do is to be helpful to others…I feel like my mantra through this is to be a light and to show up for others,” Munter said. “I always think about being a light and I’m so inspired by our community and the people in it. It was a dark night last night and we could see the moon. I thought if I was like an airplane looking down at Saratoga County tonight, we would be like a Fourth a July display as there are so many lights in this dark time that come together.”
Burke said the initial $6,500 donations could potentially provide 1,000 meals depending on how much is doled out and what size meals. She and the FLAG women hope to continue collecting donations for the foreseeable future. Focused on the funding, Burke said in the next few weeks they would ask if the hospital needs other materials and see if FLAG Saratoga can help support those needs as well.
“We really don’t know yet how long our hospitals and community is going to be in this situation,” Burke said.
Donations can be made on their Facebook group or directly on the hospitals page.
“I think my favorite part is that it’s connecting me so directly to these three other really powerful, smart women and it’s taking us sort of out of our own stuff and daily routine with kids home and cooking. All the stuff that we still have and everybody has but it’s given us a collective purpose and doing good for the community is awesome,” Kern said.