Brooks-TLC employees find comfort from food donations

Jill Zentz, mammography tech, enjoys a socially-distanced lunch from ECR International and Pizza Village. Submitted Photo.

In a time when the world feels helpless, one thing that always offers a sense of comfort is food. And there’s plenty of it being donated to Brooks-TLC on a daily basis.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooks-TLC’s Community Relations Department received a call from ECR International, Dunkirk, with news that employees were planning a fundraiser to buy a pizza lunch for all hospital staff. “What a nice treat, we thought,” shared Sheila Walier, director of marketing and community relations for the hospital. “We figured it would be a nice one-time event, and that would be it, but we quickly found out ECR had something else in mind,” she said.


Pizza Village, Dunkirk, joined forces with ECR and fed the army of health care workers at what would be the first of many socially distanced lunches and dinners donated over the next several weeks.

Shortly after the initial ECR International call, Kravitz Tree Service, Fredonia, reached out offering to send a catered meal for staff — a full spread for lunch — and then a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for the night shift. Next, CVS in Dunkirk sent Easter candy for every department, and over 100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies were donated collectively from Troop 20010, Troop 20106 and community member, Barb Faxlanger. With that, a process was developed in-house among community relations, nutritional services and human resources to plan and serve the donated meals to employees.

Rose Miller, patient care associate, and Mackenzie Szopinski, RN, refuel on complimentary Tim Horton’s coffee and breakfast before a long day ahead caring for patients. Submitted Photo.

“We have a donated meal almost daily,” Walier said. Little Caesar’s on Vineyard Drive in Dunkirk has graciously donated a delivery of 10 pizzas — twice per day, 6 days a week (every day except Fridays) for 2 weeks. Couriers deliver pizzas and cookies to off-site clinics in Gowanda and Derby. “Nobody goes hungry here, that’s for sure.”

Some days, there’s so much food, the hospital works in a “mid-morning snack”, such as the day when Krista Campo of The Catering Company in Fredonia donated a healthy smorgasbord of breakfast breads, yogurt, fruit, and granola. Still today, surprise pizzas and treats continue to arrive from friends and family who wish to remain anonymous.

Often times, community members wish to recognize specific departments, such as those on the front line — typically the emergency room, respiratory, radiology and intensive care unit. Gina Kron, owner of Tim Horton’s in Dunkirk and Fredonia sent fresh coffee, bagels and muffins for front line staff to keep them nourished as they fight the fight for this community. WellNow Urgent Care sent an encouraging cookie basket to their counterparts in the Brooks-TLC emergency room.

Even those from outside our community have fed the troops. Andrew Covey, MD, and the emergency room were “adopted” in an Adopt a Healthcare Worker GoFundMe campaign, started by Josephine Zagarella and received fresh coffee and biscotti from Overwinter Coffee and Biscotti, Buffalo.



Still, there is no doubt hometown locals have embraced the hospital as their own during this crisis, as an unending supply of goodies from local bakeries, Cupcake Berry and Upper Crust, have arrived in our units.

In a true testament to the character of this community, the crisis response been a family affair for some, as kin combine resources to grace a department or two with treat baskets, such as those sent by the Paladino and Conti families, or the Tuccio family in Fredonia. And in-house units such as 2A and maternity deliver custom snack baskets to their co-workers — who feel like family, especially at a time like this.

Staff member’s families, and even patients who feel like family, send food for the entire department of their daughter, sister, son or friend. Comrades such as Gary L. Chop, George & Diana Graovac, John & Linda Burton, Ronnie Thompson, Veronica Fores, Andrew, Tyler & Kristine Stewart, and Virginia McGraw will certainly remain in the hearts of hospital staff during this time of uncertainty.

And as if food wasn’t enough, community member Mary Croxton has engaged friends and community groups to send monetary donations for the hospital to buy lunch for all staff. As of April 24, 2020, the hospital is nearing its goal to host an all-staff chicken barbeque thanks to these generous donors:

Stephen and Patricia Arnold

Holly Benton

John & Mira Berkley

Nancy Boynton

Donald and Martha Burdick

The Honorable Timothy Cooper

Jack & Mary Martha Croxton

Lisa Gay Eikenburg

Susan Engberg

Richard & Judith Leva

Ellen Litwicki

Carolyn & Robert McMinn

Dr. James and Marcia Merrins

Laura and Eugene Sarek

Frank Schneider

Frances Sliwinski

Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc. thanks the entire community for not only donations of food, but also PPE, supplies, comfort items, and monetary support. For those who wish to donate in support of the hospital, please contact Sheila Walier in community relations at 363-3313 or swalier@brookshospital.org.


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