Cobble Hill teachers connect struggling restaurants with hungry hospital workers

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Michele Levin and Stephanie Schragger launched “Brooklyn Cares” to help out struggling restaurants by placing bulk orders of food and delivering them to front line workers.
Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Cares

Two kind-hearted Cobble Hill teachers have raised over $18,000 for a philanthropic effort to feed front line workers with meals cooked by local restaurants struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We were sharing our frustrations about not being able to do anything in this difficult time, and we started brainstorming about ways that we could help,” said Michele Levin. “We found that one thing we could do would be to connect people who wanted to provide meals, and restaurants that wanted to make them, with hospitals that were still in need for food for their staff.” 

Levin, along with her Saint Ann’s School colleague Stephanie Schragger, launched “Brooklyn Cares” in early May — using donations solicited on their GoFundMe page to order meals from local eateries and deliver them to the hungry staff at local medical facilities. 

“We’re teachers, we’re not marketing professionals. We’ve never made a GoFundMe,” said Levin. “But we started it, and then started emailing it around to people.”

Soon enough, donations from charitable New Yorkers started rolling in as word of their effort spread. 

“People have been really great about sharing it with their friends and family,” said Schragger. “It’s really been a grassroots effort.” 

“We set our goal at $5,000, but we kept moving it up because people just kept donating,” Levin added.

Since they began less than a month ago, the duo — who advertise their progress on their Instagram page @BrooklynCares — has collected over 100 individual donations, and delivered more than 1,000 meals from seven different restaurants. 

“It’s really been a collaborative community effort,” said Levin.

“Brooklyn Cares” has helped deliver over 1,000 meals since they started in early May.

The effort hits particularly close to home for the group’s organizers, both of whom have connections to the healthcare industry — Levin having previously worked as a pediatrician, and Schragger being married to a hospital employee. 

“These healthcare workers are going through so much and putting so much work in, with all this grit. So, it’s just lovely to get to see them, and hand them a healthy meal,” said Levin. 

On the flip side, the ability to help restaurants that have been forced to shutter dine-in options and pivot completely to take-out and delivery has been a heart-warming charitable exercise, the pair said.

“It’s amazing to be able to help them, just as they’re trying to get back on their feet,” said Levin. 

The pair has used the donations to order anywhere from 40 to 150 meals at local restaurants like La Vara in Cobble Hill and Bar Toto in Park Slope — which have been grateful for the chance to support their workers a living wage, said Schragger.

“The thing they’ve been most happy about is paying their staff. That’s what they keep telling us,” she said. “Just paying the staff money to produce food, which is what they love to do. That’s been such a wonderful part of this project.”

Michele Levin and her children show off the “Brooklyn Cares” logo, painted by five-year-old Amelie.

The duo, who adorn the freshly cooked meals with the “Brooklyn Cares” rainbow logo designed by Levin’s five-year-old daughter Amelie, often makes the deliveries themselves — which is no small feat for the full-time teachers.

“We do both have full time jobs, and we each have two kids under the age of nine — and they need some supervision,” said Schragger. “We end up working whenever we can.”

Despite the added work hours, however, the pair says the effort has been worth the trouble.

“It’s been really special,” said Levin.

Donations to “Brooklyn Cares” can be made at www.gofundme.com/f/brooklyn-cares