A group of north Brooklyn do-gooders has ramped up their neighborly efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, becoming a lifeline not only to their neighbors in need but also to the staff of hard-hit Woodhull Hospital.
While keeping up its regular acts of altruism, the North Brooklyn Angels have devised a system which provides the workers at Woodhull with three square meals a day from Jimmy’s Diner. This, in turn, keeps the beloved Greenpoint eatery — which previously shut its doors due to the pandemic — up and running.
The co-owner of Jimmy’s says their role in helping feed Woodhull workers has presented them with the perfect opportunity to help another group of people: their previously out-of-work staff, who now find themselves busy in the kitchen every day prepping meals for frontline workers.
“There is definitely a feeling that they are also helping, they are also a part of this community that they are able to give back to,” Blair Papagni said of her kitchen staff. “It definitely is this domino effect of kindness that’s happening.”
Work for the Angels’ “Neighbors Feeding Heroes” initiative starts at 7 am at the diner, when kitchen workers start prepping Jimmy’s popular egg sandwiches to distribute to workers coming off the night shift and beginning the day shift. That process continues throughout the day, Papagni said, with a van driving back and forth from the diner to the hospital, carrying about 450 meals a day.
The meals are made with the busy hospital staff’s needs in mind. Since frontline workers aren’t often granted the privilege of a sit-down meal, the food from Jimmy’s is made to be compact and consumable on-the-go.
To make sure healthcare workers are on their A-Game, Jimmy’s Diner co-owner Josh Cohen and local hot sauce connoisseur Noah Chaimberg have concocted an immune-booster made up of turmeric, horseradish, and hot sauces. They plan to distribute the drink — dubbed “fire cider” — to front line docs.
“We want the people who are on the front lines, who are right there saving lives, to have the strongest immune systems possible,” Papagni said.
And Jimmy’s isn’t in it alone. They’ve had the support of other community eateries and institutions along the way.
When staffers at the Union Avenue diner found themselves short on mozzarella cheese, they put out a query on a Google group for local restaurateurs. Within minutes, Papagni said she heard from the owners of Williamsburg’s Barano and Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, both offering their help.
Meanwhile, the Angels are keeping up their regular efforts to feed those in need, after being designated an essential service by the governor. Volunteers are packing and passing out meals to those who need them from a table outside the Angelmobile, the group’s bright blue mobile soup kitchen.
The Angelmobile helps the group distribute over a thousand meals a week at five locations across north Brooklyn.
During the pandemic, the Angels say they have seen an overwhelming amount of support pour in from all corners of the community. A GoFundMe launched on April 8 has already raised over $30,000 for the group, a baseline for even stronger volunteer efforts in the future, according to Angels co-founder Neil Sheehan.
Post-pandemic, Sheehan predicts a renaissance of organizing, with more and more neighbors looking to help out in more creative ways, beyond just providing food.
“I think we’re going to be in a position where people will come up with other organic ideas about how to help neighbors, and we can be the platform for that,” Sheehan said. “We’re not a feeding program we’re a program that is about neighbors helping neighbors, you don’t have to limit it to feeding.”