via Liz Murphy

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a phone call with her sister-in-law inspired Liz Murphy, an Oak Parker, to provide meals to healthcare professionals working long hours in our local hospitals. 

Murphy’s sister-in-law, a respiratory therapist, lamented having eaten nothing more than a small bag of Cheetos during a grueling 24-hour shift. Local grocery stores had been cleaned out of supplies, self-serve food stations had shut down and hospital dining rooms were closed. Hospital workers were facing severely limited dining options.

Murphy, a mother to an active four-year-old and with a career in advertising, is also a breast cancer survivor and knows firsthand the value of healthcare workers. Additionally, her sister is a nurse and her mother a former nurse.

Family connections and her personal narrative compelled Murphy to give back to the healthcare professionals and the behind-the-scenes-workers who keep hospitals running smoothly. She turned to the internet and made a post on Oak Park Working Moms (OPWM), a powerful Facebook group made up of nearly 6,000 members, asking for donations to provide a meal for local health care workers.

“I thought I would get a few donations and send some cookies to a hospital,” said Murphy with a laugh, “but things really snowballed; it was overwhelming. We took in an unbelievable amount of donations.”

Murphy collected more than $10,000 in donations given largely in $5 and $10 increments. With support from fellow OPWM members, Jennifer Phinney and Jill Wejman, Murphy was able to purchase far more than cookies. Relying on local restaurants, she delivered meals to 20 Chicago-area hospitals, with 50 to 100 mouths to feed at each location. Her simple idea morphed into feeding more than 1,000 hospital employees over the past two weeks including laundry workers, custodial staff, receptionists, nurses and doctors working on the front lines during the pandemic.

 “I figured I could kill two birds with one stone,” said Murphy. “I could give a boost to our healthcare workers while supporting our local restaurants and the restaurants have been eager to help.”

At a time when local eateries are fighting for their future, Murphy indicated many restaurants added extra food to orders, offered discounts and personally delivered food to the hospital.

Thanks to donations made through OPWM, Connie Brown of Brown Cow Ice Cream, 7347 Madison St., Forest Park, partnered up with Donna Fantetti-Slepicka of River Forest Chocolates,  7769 Lake St., River Forest, to provide an array of sweets to local hospital workers at West Suburban Hospital.

The donations from OPWM’s were spread far and wide among both local restaurants and medical facilities. Here are more examples.

Cindy Summer of Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie,  119 N. Marion St., Oak Park, closed her bakery in response to mandated dining room closures, but put her skills to use putting together an array of pastries for hospital staff at Rush Oak Park. She did the same for Loyola Hospital in Maywood.

In addition to desserts, all staff members working the night shift in the pediatric ward, Pediatric ICU, NICU, ER and the internal medicine floor at Loyola received a full dinner from Eastgate Bistro, at 102 Harrison St., Oak Park, thanks to Murphy’s fundraising efforts.

Brendan O’Connor of Big Guys Sausage Stand, 7021 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, used donated funds to deliver roast turkey sandwiches and potato soup to Northwestern Hospital last week, while Patrick O’Brien of Scratch on Lake, 733 Lake St., Oak Park, delivered sandwiches and assorted sides to Cook County Trauma Center. 

Fare from Delia’s Kitchen, 1034 Lake St., Oak Park, went to Comer Children’s Hospital; Tre Sorelle Ristorante, 1111 Lake St., Oak Park,  provided a meal to MacNeal Hospital, and Kettlestrings Tavern,  800 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, delivered to Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

Starship Subs, 7618 Madison St., Forest Park, put together a nice box of sandwiches for first responders at Loretto Hospital. Owner Paul McKenna said he made every effort to maximize the donated money by offering discounted orders to keep costs down.

 “These women are working moms,” said McKenna, “and Elizabeth has taken this on despite being very busy.”

McKenna’s daughter works in the emergency department at an Oak Park hospital, making his desire to support healthcare workers deeply personal.  

“Everybody stepping up and working together is what makes our country great,” said McKenna. “This is a hard time and doing something like this makes people feel better.”

UPDATE:  A donation link was not included in the article because Murphy is winding down her efforts–she is one tired mama!  Thankfully, several other programs have come to my attention and Oak Park Eats will share news of similar efforts in the coming days.

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