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A Tennessee Uber driver raised nearly $12,000 and used the money to buy food from local restaurants that are struggling during the coronavirus outbreak, then delivered the meals to hospital workers on the front lines.
Tammy Rivera of Memphis told Fox News on Friday that she has been delivering the meals for 27 days straight. She came up with the idea after she picked up a nurse from Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital in Germantown, Tenn., which is a suburb of Memphis.
Rivera said the hospital employee, who had worked the overnight shift, was talking to her about “how scary this virus was.” Rivera said she then asked her if she could stop at a McDonald’s or another place where she could grab food because she was hungry.
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“In conversation I learned the hospital cafeteria closed at seven. The night shift comes in at seven. She worked the night shift,” Rivera told Fox News. “In addition to that, because restaurants were told you can’t have anybody sitting in there, they were closing earlier. Most of the restaurants in the area of the hospital were closing between 6:30 and 7, as well. This left these workers doing 12- and 14-hour shifts with vending machine food.”
Rivera, who has been working for Uber for about two and a half years, added: “It stuck with me that these people were going without food.”
She decided to reach out to members of the Germantown community on Facebook and wrote a post on the community’s page saying she would collect donations and volunteer her time to pick up dinner and drop it off at the hospital.
“In two hours I had enough money to buy dinner for 40 people,” Rivera said.
She decided to buy food from local restaurants after someone in the Facebook group suggested doing so in an effort to help two groups affected by COVID-19 at once.
“What I didn’t count on was waking up the next morning with enough money to feed these people for the next two weeks, and that’s what I did,” Rivera told Fox News. She said the effort grew from there and every night she now feeds about 60 people who either work in the emergency room or in the special COVID-19 section of the hospital with meals from locally-owned food trucks or restaurants.
“We had pizza, lasagna, chicken caesar salad, catfish dinners. Of course we had BBQ dinners because that’s Memphis,” Rivera said.
She said restaurants that have been forced to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have reached out to her asking to participate.
“It was set out to give to locally-owned restaurants that are struggling through this, I just didn’t realize that there was that great a need,” Rivera said. “I had one restaurant contact me that had temporarily closed their doors who couldn’t make their last payroll ask me, ‘Could you let us in on this?’”
She said that some of the participating restaurants have even been writing encouraging messages on the paper bags distributed to the hospital workers to keep their spirits up.
“Our associates have been working around the clock to provide the best possible care for the patients and the communities that we serve, so Tammy’s generosity and thoughtfulness has really given a boost to our health care workers,” Sarah Farley, communications specialist with Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, told Fox News. “It’s a nod of encouragement. It’s a sense of comfort to know our community is thinking about, praying for and supporting the health care workers in Memphis and Shelby County.”
“I have gotten the sweetest thank you cards,” Rivera said, adding that the health care workers have been “so appreciative.”
She said “their only complaint is that they are quite certain that they are going to put on the quarantine 15.”
Farley told Fox News that the doctors and nurses at the hospital have expressed their sincere appreciation.
“It has made such a huge difference,” Farley said, adding that Rivera is “really spreading the love” by supporting local businesses, as well.
“We’re inspired by Tammy’s incredible acts of kindness and continued contribution to her community — and we’re especially grateful she’s a part of ours,” Uber spokeswoman Lexi Levin Mitchel told Fox News.
Rivera said she plans to continue delivering meals to hospital workers before she starts her Uber shift every night until she runs out of funding or “until everyone goes back to normal, whatever normal is going to be.”
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She said that her actions don’t “compete with how I feel when I drive away from that hospital knowing that they have food. That they know that outside of their scary walls, people really care.”
“The only way we are going to get through this, is if we are in it together,” Rivera added.