Food carts, tea houses pitch in to thank health care workers
Crammed inside his food truck last week, Jason Jewett and his two children, Jacob and Sami, scooped ramen noodles into large containers as quickly as possible.
While the preparation of the noodles was no different than any other day at Bamen Ramen, on this particular Tuesday, it was to do a special favor: thank the health care workers at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center for all that they are doing during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We did this because all three of my kids were born here, and I'm also a heart patient here," said Jewett as he prepared bowl after bowl of vegan and chicken shoyu ramen, along with side orders of the pork and chicken pot stickers known as gyoza, at the Beaverton-area hospital.
Outside, hospital workers snaked along the side of the food trailer — fully masked and maintaining appropriate social distancing — and they didn't stop coming until Jewett and his crew had unloaded 500 bowls of ramen, 200 gyoza and 150 fountain drinks.
"I tried making some more on the fly for a few remaining people and hand-delivered to the front entrance," said Jewett, a former high-tech worker who trained at the Yamato Ramen School in Singapore, before he finally called it a day at 7 p.m. "What an exciting time."
Bamen Ramen is one of many area restaurants and food carts that have been helping to feed medical workers and first responders during an economic shutdown that has squeezed countless businesses.
"When we started Bamen Ramen, we intentionally wanted to serve our community and love others while making high-quality ramen," said Suzi Jewett, Jason's wife and business partner. "We started Bamen Ramen in November and have been waiting for the right opportunity to come along side and be able to serve our community. During this time is the perfect opportunity."
The couple has been conducting a similar giveaway during the coronavirus shutdown, giving away 40 to 80 bowls of ramen in Forest Grove, where their food truck is normally stationed, to show support for their community.
In Beaverton and Portland, employees and management of Mo Cha Tea House and Swee2o Tea & Desserts teamed up last Thursday to prepare fried tofu and chicken for staff at Kaiser Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro.
"This is our third delivery," said Bella Wang, co-owner of Swee2o. They have also made deliveries to Legacy Good Samaritan Health and Hospital in Portland, she noted.
Wang said she's more than happy to help front-line workers and has received positive responses from them.
"They love it," Wang said. "We feel really lucky to serve them. We're very proud of what they do."
For Vickie Hu, who co-owns the two Mo Cha Tea House locations in Beaverton with her husband, Jerry, it's a matter of giving back to those on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. She said her businesses are providing $2 worth of drinks and food for hospital workers and first responders for every dollar donated. They are also looking for hospitals or clinics where they could drop off food and drinks.
"We appreciate they're working hard for us," said Hu. "We're in this together and we want to do whatever we can to help our community."
And hospital employees, like the ones standing in line at St. Vincent on Tuesday, are grateful for the support.
"It's awesome," Lucien Broeckel, an inventory coordinator for the operating room, said after receiving his ramen and gyoza. "I definitely appreciate it."
Megan Blandy, director of development for the Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation, said recent food deliveries to the hospital have been unprecedented, and she's been impressed with everyone's generosity.
She estimated that over the last three weeks, more than 25 restaurants have donated food and drinks to St. Vincent hospital workers. Those dishes have ranged from contemporary American meals to Pan-Asian to Hispanic cuisine.
"We really do appreciate it," said Blandy. "The caregivers here are feeling the love."
Kaiser Westside and St. Vincent have both been battlegrounds in Washington County's war against the coronavirus.
The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was detected in a patient at Kaiser Westside on Feb. 28.
St. Vincent, just down Northwest Barnes Road from the Regency Park senior living center that had an outbreak last month, has lost several patients to COVID-19 in recent weeks.
Police and firefighters in the area have also been adapting to a strange "new normal," wearing personal protective equipment and taking care to practice social distancing even during many routine interactions.
Country Financial in Tualatin has delivered meals to the Tualatin Police Department throughout the month of April. Todd Williams, the Country Financial agency manager in Tualatin, helped organize a push to find restaurants in Tualatin, Tigard, Newberg, Wilsonville and McMinnville to partner with the business to deliver meals to hospitals and first responders in the area.
As of late last week, Country Financial had helped deliver close to 2,000 meals.
"As of now, we have a plan to provide meals to healthcare workers and first responders in our community through May or June," said Williams. "It's a small gesture compared to what they do day in and day out, and we may not be able to cover everyone, but it's something we can do to sustain our hardworking healthcare workers and first responders who are putting their lives on the line every day, and at the same time, doing what we can to keep small local restaurants in business during these unprecedented times."
Tualatin Police Chief Bill Steele said in addition to Country Financial, the Thenell Law Group has donated lunches to his department. Others have dropped off donuts and bundt cakes. The support has been so great that he has recommended others who want to help to donate to the Tualatin Food Pantry instead.
"Our officers are well taken care of, and there are others who need it more than we do," said Steele. "We truly appreciate the support, and we're glad we can still be out there keeping our community safe."
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