This Restaurant Is Uniting a Community By Delivering Meals to First Responders and Families During Coronavirus

Newsweek's "Heroes of the Pandemic" series features everyday heroes showing service, sacrifice or kindness in the time of COVID-19.

Whether it's cheering from their apartments or just offering sincere thanks, so many Americans have been trying to find ways to show emergency service workers their appreciation during the coronavirus pandemic. One restaurant in Westchester, New York, is doing its part to help those workers, and others in need, with a generous new program.

In late March, Tarrytown's Horsefeathers began "A Moveable Feast," a program that lets patrons support the bar and restaurant while also giving to the community at large. Customers can make a donation through the restaurant's website to pay for meals for "health care workers, first responders, covid-19 victims, those in quarantine, the elderly and those facing financial difficulties due to lack of work."

Julia McCue, who's owned the restaurant since purchasing it from her uncle in 2018, said that like many restaurant owners, the COVID-19 outbreak left her in a difficult position with her staff: She was trying to decide if she could even afford to stay open and hang onto her staff, many of whom had worked at the restaurant for years. After opting to remain in business for takeout orders to keep most of her staff working, McCue got the idea for the Moveable Feast program after a couple who visits the restaurant on a yearly basis bought a gift certificate to feed first responders.

"Someone bought a gift certificate—this couple from Pennsylvania that come here every Halloween," McCue told Newsweek in a phone call on Tuesday. "They ended up reaching out and buying a gift certificate and saying, 'Use this to go cook a meal for the police.'" McCue said the local police were thrilled that someone had offered to buy them dinner and they graciously accepted.

After posting about the kind gesture on the restaurant's Instagram, more people were inspired to do the same. "All of a sudden, it started snowballing," McCue said. "Then, we get another person that was buying a gift card and saying, 'Go feed these people,' and then another one and another one."

As more and more orders came in, McCue connected with another Tarrytown resident, Anne Richards, who became the coordinator and community liaison for A Moveable Feast. Being an administrator for one of the largest community Facebook groups in the county, 10591, and being involved with local organizations that help families and individuals and need, Richards was able to help the Moveable Feast effort spread. Now, it's not just helping first responders and health care workers, as many people requested in the campaign's beginning; it's also helping to feed people and families that the pandemic has placed a difficult burden on—including the elderly and out of work, as well as helping emergency services who may not receive as much attention.

"Some Emergency Services get a lot of food. We want to find the ones who are not getting a lot of food," Richards told Newsweek, referring to hospital workers and police. "Some families have more support than others; there are people who have no support."

Horsefeathers employees prepare for takeout orders and volunteers to deliver meals. Courtesy of Horsefeathers

Richards also said that even though the service started as local effort, it has spread to further parts of the county. "There are three gentlemen in Yonkers [which is about 13 miles from Tarrytown] that are single senior citizens with medical issues with absolutely no way to get food and we've served them as well. They may be in Yonkers, but they're in our hearts now," she said. "The boundaries of the village don't hold strong in that regard, when it comes to fulfilling the need of someone having a meal in front of them. Food is love, and they're feeling it."

McCue and volunteers have said that they've gotten gracious responses from residents and first-responders who receive the meals.

One volunteer, Keith Grasmann, told Newsweek that delivering meals has been personally moving. "It fills my eyes with tears and melts my heart," Grasmann told Newsweek. He said that whether they're thanking him from car windows or with signs in their home windows, the gratitude he's shown when making deliveries makes it "the most heart-fulfilling, soul-fulfilling work."

And to hear McCue tell it, service workers have also been grateful for the deliveries they're getting, too. "When I went up to Phelps [Hospital], and when I went to OVAC [Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps], and when I went to the first responders, they've been amazing. It's been awesome," McCue said. "They were really happy!"

McCue also made sure to say that the project wouldn't be possible without all of the volunteers and donations: "In turn, I'm indebted to all the people who have donated to this, because I couldn't do this if they didn't donate for me to do it."

"I am so proud of where we are. I'm proud of our town: Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow. People just want to help," McCue said. "People just want to make sure that we're staying in business and we're not going anywhere and people that need food get fed."

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