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Friends raise $10k to help Porter, local eateries

MIDDLEBURY — Jessica Holmes and Amey Ryan have been thinking a lot about the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has been taking on folks working in Middlebury’s dining and health care sectors. Holmes is a Middlebury College professor of economics and member of the Green Mountain Care Board, while Ryan is broker/owner at IPJ Real Estate and a member of the Better Middlebury Partnership.
“I have close friends who own restaurants and close friends who work in the health care industry and I have seen them all struggle during this pandemic,” Holmes said through an email. “The financial burden is real, as is the burnout, and I knew I was not alone in wanting to help.”
Holmes does some of her best thinking while swimming, and a real doozy of an idea floated to the top during a recent dip in the pool: Why not launch an online fundraiser through which donations would be used to pay local restaurants to make meals for frontline Porter Medical Center workers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
It would be a chance to “feed” area restaurants, as well as the people sacrificing their holiday to care for others.
She pitched the idea to Ryan, who quickly agreed to lend her support.
They set up a gofundme site on Dec. 8 titled “Feed the Front Lines, Support our Restaurants,” which can be found at tinyurl.com/y35ujxxv. Holmes and Ryan established a goal of $10,000, based on the prospect of bankrolling around 530 lunch/dinner meals for Porter employees working shifts on either Dec. 24 and 25. They enlisted two specific restaurants for the meal prep — Two Brothers Tavern and the Waybury Inn.
Holmes first wanted to ensure this wouldn’t be an additional burden on the restaurants, since they, too, have workers who would have to be enlisted to make the meals during the holidays. Fortunately, Two Brothers co-owner Holmes Jacobs and the Waybury’s Joe Sutton both were enthusiastic and grateful to get the business, according to Jessica Holmes.
Ryan and Holmes have agreed to deliver the meals from the restaurants to the Porter campus, and will of course listen to anyone who might want to help with that task.
“We do not want the delivery of the meals to add any burden to the restaurant owners,” Ryan stressed.
Organizers aren’t yet sure of the ingredients for the meals, but two things are certain: They’ll be tasty, and they’ll need to travel well.
To their delight, Holmes and Ryan confirmed on Dec. 10 that the gofundme campaign had achieved its $10,000 goal, thanks to more than 70 contributors, two of whom donated $1,000 each.
“Jessica and I could not be more proud of you, our community, and the support we’ve received locally and across the country,” Ryan wrote in an update for the gofundme page.
“We are truly blessed and are hoping to keep the momentum going.”
So the gofundme page will remain “live” to receive donations for a second round of meals to feed Porter frontline workers on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“If support continues to come in and as long as money allows, we will likely expand to other restaurants,” Ryan said.
Porter Medical Center spokesman Ron Hallman was effusive in his praise for the event organizers.
“We at Porter are so deeply grateful to the organizers of this effort and to our broader community for their support of our staff during these extraordinary times,” he said. “Even as we continue to plan, prepare and work diligently to safely serve our patients and residents, it is this type of community appreciation that helps to sustain us. We are very thankful and the staff who will be working over the holidays will certainly enjoy these delicious meals.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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