When COVID-19 hit the U.S., life as everyone knew it turned upside down. States went into lockdown and business came to a sudden halt.
One operation, Craftsman Auto Care in Virginia, wanted to give back to the healthcare workers on the frontlines, while supporting the local businesses around them. What owners Matt and Judy Curry started as a way to answer a customer’s call for help turned into an entire project. Their campaign, Feed a Hero, sought to provide 100 single-serve meals per day to local healthcare workers in the Northern Virginia area for 30 days. Their goal? To enable local entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to aid its healthcare workers and keep small businesses operating.
Here’s how a little favor turned into these shop owners’ mission to give back and keep business moving.
Falling Into Place
It all started with a simple Facebook post on March 22, 2020, asking the community how Craftsman Auto Care could help. One customer who saw the post happened to be a doctor working at the local hospital, and they reached out for assistance.
The biggest items they needed were masks, gloves, and swabs. They also sought toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. The customer, Dr. Mark Frankie, did say that a lot of the staff needed food after working long hours, and that was something the Currys could help out with.
With a quick call to 29 Diner, a local restaurant in town, Curry was able to pick up and deliver 40 meals to Inova Fairfax Hospital workers.
“It took an hour to put together. We started with 40 meals and then thought, ‘Well, that was easy,’” Judy Curry says. “It just incrementally came together.”
Since delivering 40 meals was a piece of cake, the Currys knew they could send out at least 100 meals, and committed to do so for 30 days, focusing their efforts on more than just the healthcare professionals. The effort grew from there.
“We’ve found that most of the hospitals only need about 40 to 50 meals,” Judy Curry says.
To meet their 100-meals-a-day goal, the shop has delivered meals to first responders and those in need: the police department, the firehouse, the Schar Cancer Institute, and a shelter helping women who have gone through domestic abuse. Over those 30 days, they were able to feed over 3,000 heroes and those in need.
Partnering with Local Businesses
When it came to providing the over 3,000 meals to healthcare workers, the Currys got six local restaurants together to cook quality meals for $10 each. And because of this, the Amphora Restaurant Group, the Harbour Grille, 29 Diner, The Vienna Inn, Chantel's Bakery, and Ciao-Osteria have all been able to call in their cooks and keep them on payroll through the economic downturn.
“It’s businesses helping businesses help our local heroes,” Matt Curry says.
To show their appreciation and help keep meal costs down, each restaurant donated its first 50 meals to the cause. Another local restaurant, Logan Roadhouse, was closing just as the pandemic began, leaving $10,000 worth of fresh meat in their freezers. With the help of a connection through a Craftsman Auto Care employee, the meat was donated to one of the restaurants where they hosted a Chop Challenge, gathering the local participating chefs for a cookoff.
Getting the Word Out
While Craftsman Auto Care paid for $15,000 worth of meals out of their own pockets in the beginning, the Feed a Hero project relies solely on donations to fully cover the costs. It’s one thing to post a GoFundMe page, but the project wouldn’t have taken off without getting the word out.
The shop’s marketing team got to work, contacting the local and national media and sending out press releases to anyone and everyone they could. The media outreach paid off. The story was picked up by a local television news station, and it was featured in the Washington Business Journal. From there, the Currys have promoted through a lot of word-of-mouth and networking.
Every time Matt Curry delivers a meal, a flyer is attached to every individually-wrapped meal with its quarantine specials. It started out with a free oil change for healthcare workers and first responders, but the offerings have now expanded to the community: $50 off auto repair service with free pick-up and delivery, $25 off an oil change service, and if someone donates $50, they get $25 off of a service.
When it comes to social networking, the shop has been taking full advantage. Every time Matt Curry picks up a delivery, he posts a photo with the restaurant’s staff, links the campaign’s GoFundMe page, and tags the business in the post. On top of that, he posts a daily personal video message to garner support and update the community on the campaign’s progress. The shop even made another fundraiser page on Facebook as an extra fundraising boost.
Donations poured in, and early numbers came to more than $32,000 in donations. As a retention builder, the Currys say that the goodwill goes a long way to bring new and returning customers.