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Alexis and Kevin with donations
Alexis Santo Domingo, a customer service representative with UHN Employee Wellness, and Kevin Majchrzak, Coordinator of UHN Employee Wellness, with some of the donated non-perishable items. (Photo: UHN)

Frontline staff are working tirelessly to take care of us. Through acts of generosity, members of the local community are doing what they can to return the favour.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, local companies have shown an outpouring of support for healthcare workers through gifts-in-kind. The volume of donations quickly increased and a team at UHN dedicated to scouting, organizing and distributing donations was formed.  

“A seemingly small gesture like a free lunch can give frontline staff a boost of morale,” says Justin Young, Director of Business Development and Consulting at UHN, who has been working with local businesses to secure donations.  

“Ultimately, that morale transfers to the care provided to our patients,” Justin says. “It has been heartwarming to see the community recognize how critical our healthcare workers are and do whatever they can to support them.” 

There are four donation categories: food, hotels and accommodations, a staff meal program, and miscellaneous. 

To meet the needs of UHN’s large workforce, Justin looks specifically for non-perishable food, beverages, and household items — all in bulk.  

To date, more than 30,000 non-perishable food and household items have been donated to help power TeamUHN. In addition, 650 hotel nights have been donated.

Andrea Chiaramello, Lavazza Coffee’s Vice-President of Sales Canada, worked with Justin to donate coffee to UHN. For Andrea, the gift was particularly personal – his wife, Dr. Cristina Nostro, is a Senior Scientist at UHN’s McEwen Stem Cell Institute.  

“We are well aware of the huge efforts and challenges that first responders are facing in this situation, this is our way to say thank you and to bring our little contribution to battle Covid-19 pandemic,” he says. 

‘A true team effort’ 

When the volume of donations became overwhelming, a team from UHN Wellness came to help. 

“At first, I didn’t fully understand what type of volume we would be looking at,” says Kevin Majchrzak, Employee Wellness Coordinator.  

Once Justin secures a donation, Kevin and his colleagues are responsible for receiving the goods and distributing them to the six respite centres across UHN’s sites.  

Kevin says he constantly receives feedback from respite managers that staff are very appreciative of the donations.  

“It has been a true team effort,” Kevin says. “I am really enjoying working with people I don’t typically get the opportunity to.” 

The battle is not over, and neither is the work 

While the donations are making an incredible impact, Justin, Kevin, and their colleagues, including UHN’s Foundations, are constantly working to improve the ways staff are supported.  

For example, a new Staff Meal Program was recently launched. It sees donors purchase vouchers to hospital retailers, which staff can use for free meals. The initiative supports both internal vendors who are struggling due to less foot traffic, while feeding staff.  

“We are brainstorming new ideas, all of which are designed to leverage the groundswell of support from the community who are looking for opportunities to brighten the day of our staff,” Justin says. 

Some next steps include increased access for staff working in the intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units who cannot make it to the respite centres. 

“I want staff to know that we are working on getting this to everyone and that if they haven’t seen it yet, they will see it soon,” Justin says. 

For donations, see the UHN COVID-19 donations page

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