During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, Shannon Williams Hultberg decided to step up her role in the community, coming up with a plan to simultaneously support struggling restaurants while boosting the morale of healthcare workers and first responders.
After proposing the idea to her friend Kathryn Rothkamm Gill, the pair established their own nonprofit, BR Answer the Call, and hit the ground running, starting a GoFundMe and connecting with hospitals across the Baton Rouge region and beyond. In early April 2020, the pair began using the donations to buy meals from local restaurants and deliver food to healthcare workers multiple times a week.
Now, as a result of the surging delta variant, Hultberg and her services are in demand once again.
In early August, Hultberg noticed that she had been tagged in a Facebook post. “It was the wife of someone who worked in the ICU at one of the hospitals,” she says. “She was reaching out saying that morale was once again very low among healthcare workers, and that if any friends, family or coworkers wanted to donate any meals, they would be so appreciative.”
Of course, Hultberg responded. Since the return of BR Answer the Call on Aug. 4, Hultberg has delivered nearly 350 meals, this time with the help of several St. Joseph’s Academy students, including Hultberg’s own 16-year-old daughter, Catherine.
Familiar with packing brown-bag lunches as a part of St. Joseph’s Sticker Sack program, each girl takes part by assembling care packages filled with personal items to be delivered to hospitals in addition to the meals.
“We bring a meal, a dessert, care packages and what we call our appreciation posters,” Hultberg explains. Each poster is decorated to be hung up in the workplace, usually in their eating area. “It means so much because they see it throughout the day and it reminds them that their community is behind them and cares. And to me, it just makes my heart very full to know that.”
BR Answer the Call maintains the same mission it always has: to encourage the community to step up in times of need. And just like before, individuals across the city are responding, donating approximately $5,000 since Aug. 4.
“I hope everybody realizes that anybody can make a difference in their community,” Hultberg says. “Even though I’m the person delivering the food, the people in the community are the ones that are behind it all.”