For those of us staying indoors and doing all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, the constant reminders of the impending apocalypse can be draining, to say the least.
Fear can be a great divider, but more often than not, it brings people together in wonderful ways. Dig a little deeper, past the latest cringe-inducing headlines about the three-ring circus show that used to be the United States, and you'll find plenty of stories about humans helping other humans and communities banding together.
Here we've rounded up acts of kindness from businesses bent on giving back to the community, helping others and "caremongering." (I'm not crying, you're crying.)
The DreamMind Group delivering free food boxes to seniors
The DreamMind Group might not ring any bells, but you've likely heard of their nightclubs, Tequila Jacks and Orchid. President of the entertainment group Abbid Mahmoud started Operation Ramzieh (named after his mother) with a $40,000 donation of his own. The initiative is delivering free crisis kits to seniors in Toronto and Ottawa. Each kit includes pantry items and necessities like granola bars, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, fruit and toilet paper. To donate, ask for a crisis kit or request one for someone else, visit operationramzieh.org.
Distilleries and breweries making hand sanitizer
Booze producers are still making alcohol but the end result isn't grownup juice anymore. Instead they're making hand sanitizer to meet the growing demand needed by healthcare workers, essential businesses and communities who have been met with stripped-bare cleaning supply aisles at stores.
In Almonte, Ontario, Vodkow Dairy Distillery makes their vodka from unused milk sugars normally discarded by dairy farmers. Now, they've shifted 100 per cent of their sustainable system to making hand sanitizer, most of which they've been donating to charities and frontline organizations. When you purchase a bottle of sanitizer from their online store, you're actually buying two bottles – one for yourself and one to donate. Or you can choose to donate both bottles.
Small-batch distiller Dillon's is known for their gin, bitters and now hand sanitizer. With donations from the community, they've been able to distill, bottle and distribute more than 25,000 bottles to first responders across Ontario, free of charge. To support their operation you can purchase their spirits, gift cards or hand sanitizer from their online shop – or simply make a donation.
Toronto's east end gin distillery Reid's is also on the train to sanitization station. They're distributing spray sanitizer to shelters, food banks, health centres, frontline workers and essential services across the city. Community members seeking sanitizer can visit the distillery while their retail store is open between noon and 8 p.m. daily. For those at home, you can purchase their gin and cocktails online – delivery is free.
Steam Whistle and Spirit of York have teamed up to make sanitizer that's available for purchase at Spirit of York's Distillery District location, with all proceeds going to local food banks.
Toronto's Storyteller Beverages, creators of Storyteller Lager and Bees Knees (an Ontario gin cocktail sweetened with local honey), is now offering free deliveries across the GTA, plus a free hand sanitizer with every order to those who need it.
West Side Beef making groceries more accessible to elderly Ontarians
Toronto-based meat delivery company West Side Beef offers meat shares, bundles, meals and a subscription service – all from local farms that raise their animals ethically and antibiotic-free.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they've started offering free shipping anywhere in Ontario to seniors or those with with elderly family members. They're also using their local farm connections to source non-meat items that are difficult to find amidst the empty grocery aisles.
After forgoing sleep to meet the demand, operational manager Paul Byres says that having the opportunity to help people keeps his fatigue at bay. "My team here has been able to pull off something incredible to help the community around us and keep our farmers supported and that's really been a joy to be a part of," says Byres.
Uber Eats waiving delivery fees to support local restaurants
Believe it or not, Uber Eats has waived its previously ever-increasing delivery fee. This only applies to independent restaurants – if you order from the big guys you'll still have to fork out the fee. What better reason to support your local restaurants?
Victoria Supermarket giving free rice to those in need
Family-run Desi grocery store Victoria Supermarket is giving back to the North York community in a major way. The Halal grocer announced that they will be giving away a free bag of rice and a bag of masoor daal lentils to anyone in need. Requests can be made in-store. For the rest of the community, they update their Facebook page when hand sanitizer is in stock and they've started offering a grocery delivery service.
Stores facilitating special hours for vulnerable shoppers
Grocery stores and pharmacies across the city are opening earlier to provide senior shoppers with a quieter, safer and less chaotic experience. At McEwan Fine Foods, seniors receive a 10 per cent discount during the first opening hour of every day. Shoppers Drug Mart is also dedicating the first hour of every day for seniors, with a 20 per cent discount. Check your local store for details.
NutriCanine donating free dog food to fur babies in need
Our furry friends might not be worried about the pandemic but they still gotta eat. Toronto-based raw dog food delivery service NutriCanine is giving away up to 1000 lbs of free dog food to those impacted by COVID-19. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your request. They're also offering free contactless delivery and 30 per cent off all orders to help the community.
Mark McEwan and the ONE Restaurant team making meals for paramedics
His empire of restaurants may have shuttered their doors, but that doesn’t mean Mark McEwan isn’t keeping busy. In addition to providing seniors with a discount and a dedicated shopping hour at McEwan Fine Foods, the Top Chef Canada judge is also making meals for health workers. Along with the ONE Restaurant team (chefs Darby Piquette, Amy Tenn-Yuk and Richard Hakim), Mark McEwan delivered 120 meals to Toronto paramedics. Each health worker received a Caesar salad, BBQ beef brisket with maple Brussels sprouts and Cajun potatoes, cheesecake with strawberry compote and graham crumble, ONE’s cookies, a Mandarin orange and San Pellegrino.
Sysco helping to heal the food industry
Food distribution giant Sysco is donating 250,000 meals amid the COVID-19 crises. A key provider in the now stalled food service industry, Sysco is leveraging its supply chain to service grocers as part of its new Foodies Unite initiative. They're also providing a number of tools and resources online and partnering with relief companies like Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest and Breakfast Clubs of Canada.
Paramount Fine Foods making meals more accessible
In addition to donating 2,000 meals to food banks and shelters across the GTA, Paramount Fine Foods is also working with Feed Our Heroes to support healthcare workers with food delivery. And a new "Dare to Care" menu of $5-$15 items available for delivery or curb-side pickup, aims to make food more accessible while still maintaining physical distancing.
Taste Toronto providing economic relief for restaurant workers
To stem the tide of restaurant industry job loss, Taste Toronto set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $60k. Over the course of 30 days, (starting March 23), 30 restaurants will be featured on TasteToronto’s Instagram (@tastetoronto) providing firsthand accounts of how this pandemic has affected their employees. To date, Taste Toronto has raised over $25K for local restaurants – head here to help reach their target.
Craft Beer Market donating gift card sales to staff
During this difficult time, many businesses have been forced to layoff their staff – especially in the hospitality industry. Financial District brew pup Craft Beer Market is doing everything they can to ensure that their employees are taken care of. All of the proceeds from their merchandise and gift card sales will be donated directly to their staff. To help, you can shop online here and purchase a gift card to use once the bar and restaurant is open again.