2020 has been a year of struggle for everyone, from frontline workers to businesses to everyday citizens. For many, any chance at normalcy has been hindered by government-mandated restrictions on gatherings to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally owned restaurants have been hit hardest by these restrictions, unable to provide indoor service for customers. Heather Brady, the co-founder of Do It Local Berks, saw this and was inspired to rally her community together to help.
What started as fun neighborhood projects to promote hope and positivity became an opportunity to help local businesses. At the beginning of the pandemic, her Mohnton neighborhood started using their community Facebook group to organize small community projects, such as decorating their windows with holiday themes. These community projects eventually grew to include local businesses.
“I knew the local businesses were hurting, not knowing how long the pandemic would last,” Brady said. “I started hiring small businesses, such as Sweet Ride, to do delivery drives and pop-up pick-ups, and coordinated orders and pick-up times through the Facebook page.” A friend of Brady’s who works at EnerSys was inspired by her initiative and enlisted Brady and Do It Local to help set up “Takeout Thursdays” as an EnerSys fundraiser for the United Way of Berks County.
“It worked out really well, considering how many employees were working from home. And it made such an impact on the restaurant owners that one of them actually cried [from happiness], saying how the check from one day of these family meals going out the door would pay their rent that month.”
With the success of Takeout Thursdays with EnerSys, Brady decided to take it a step further, making it a Do It Local community-wide initiative.
According to Brady, “When the new mandate [barring indoor seating in restaurants] came out, I thought ‘Well, this is the time!’ We did four really good ones with Enersys, why not open it up to other people to do in their neighborhoods and get different restaurants involved and help everyone pay their rent?”
“Takeout Thursday Family Meal Dinner Fundraisers” works with various neighborhoods and community organizations, such as EnerSys, and local restaurants, such as G.N.A. Ristorante and Crave Café, to raise funds for the community while supporting local establishments. Proceeds will go to the organization involved while the food orders keep the restaurant going. Brady posts a link to her community Facebook page and the Do It Local Facebook page for preorders from the restaurant participating that week. Once the preorders are made, she sends a spreadsheet to the restaurant the night before with the list of meals. The restaurant then has the day to prepare before the meals are delivered to the pick-up location, where customers get contactless curbside pick-up.
Brady said that the success of Takeout Thursdays is due to her community’s enthusiasm and the great response she has gotten on social media.
“Community and neighborhoods have always worked together, and it’s just connecting them with a local restaurant that is in need right now,” Brady said. “It’s an honor to be able to be the person to instigate it, but all the credit goes to the community.”
Brady also said that she is looking to expand Takeout Thursdays by finding ways to get neighbors involved who are not on social media, possibly looking into physical advertising throughout her neighborhood.
For more information on how to get your neighborhood or organization involved in Takeout Thursdays, contact Heather Brady at [email protected].