By Saraana Jamraj
When Michelle and Brian Rebhun moved back to South Florida from New Jersey last November, they couldn’t have predicted what the future would look like: a global pandemic sending the country into chaos and uncertainty.
They decided to respond to the crisis the best way they knew—by embracing their local community and pitching in to help.
While supporting small businesses along with feeding frontline workers, the Rebhuns have donated meals to the staff of at least 16 hospitals.
On April 29, they, along with Erin and Tyler Cafferty, owners of Huey Magoo’s restaurant in Sunrise, donated 50 boxed lunches to University Hospital in Tamarac.
For Michelle and Brian, this project was motivated by wanting to preserve the wellness of local businesses and the morale of local healthcare workers.
“It kept me up at night thinking about what we could do during this difficult time for so many,” said Michelle.
One night, over dinner, the couple talked about one of their favorite local pizza restaurants, worried they wouldn’t get enough business to stay open. They realized they could support both local businesses and hospital workers.
At first, the Rebhuns funded the donations themselves to avoid asking people who might be facing financial hardships. Still, Michelle said friends and neighbors on Facebook would reach out to donate and be a part of it.
“It makes it easy to be part of something, without financially taking on the burden of funding an entire hospital or group,” said Michelle.
They also donated to all 450 of North Broward Hospital’s employees, because that’s where they treated trauma patients from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, the high school of Michelle’s hometown, Parkland.
When it comes to choosing restaurants to support, they’ve started with their favorites—namely Pizza Time Caffe in Parkland. However, Michelle said they’ve spent a lot of time researching the neighborhoods of the hospitals, to learn about the best local food places to buy from.
“I found a bagel place in Lake Worth that the woman was in tears when I placed an order for 150 people,” said Michelle, “That’s why we are doing this, to bring joy to as many people as we can.”
Attached to their donations is a note that includes a photo of the family, including their children—Henri, 2, and Pacey, 6 months, thanking each worker for their bravery, courage, and selflessness during this time.
“The healthcare workers are overjoyed, the restaurants are thrilled—it’s doing something good for all of us,” said Michelle.
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- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.
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