Nurses at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood receive groceries from the Irish Times Brookfield Restaurant. (Photo submitted)
Kendell Sullivan (left), co-owner of FocusOm, with her partner Dr. Lisa Gramlich. Both work at Loyola, Sullivan as a nurse and Gramlich as an anesthetist. (Photo submitted)
A few months ago, Charlene Vickery and Kendell Sullivan prepared to reopen FocusOm, their Brookfield yoga studio that took months and thousands of dollars to renovate.
The April celebration should be the owners’ way of re-introducing local residents to the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga – a happy, peaceful way to start spring.
Instead, the universe had other plans in store that sparked a global coronavirus pandemic that weighed on the daily lives of billions of people around the world.
Early warnings of public gatherings initially prompted Vickery of LaGrange and Sullivan of Willow Springs to clean their studio more frequently and limit class size. Then, when the statewide stay at home ordinance went into effect in mid-March, owners had to switch their entire business model to virtual classrooms.
The short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on their yoga business weren’t the only things Vickery and Sullivan had on their mind.
Sullivan is also a key contributor, an anesthesiology nurse at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. She also happens to be married to an anesthetist in Loyola, so she is seeing firsthand the effects of COVID-19 and the implications for the medical field.
Vickery wondered how she could take the principles of teaching at FocusOm and embark on something positive for both the wider community and local workers.
“How do we bring peace into our lives? How do we incorporate this practice of calm into our everyday life? That’s why we practice yoga, ”said Vickery. “This is a time to know who your neighbors are and to know the people who may need help on your block.”
Vickery recruited her daughter Morgan; her daughter’s boyfriend, Rye Decker; and some of FocusOms students to make masks.
Sullivan was able to supply reused surgical materials from the hospital to make the masks, and the group was able to make more than 200 masks. While not N95 certified, the goal is for the masks to serve as extras for Loyola’s doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers when they need them in the hospital, go to grocery stores and do other public errands.
But Vickery wanted to find another way to help.
After Vickery learned from Sullivan that Loyola’s cafeteria was closed and that medical staff often had no time to pack or fetch meals during their long shifts, she came up with the idea of fundraising and buying groceries from local restaurants, which faced slow business due to the pandemic and the donation of these meals to Loyola’s medical staff.
Vickery was associated with Carpenter Finer Foods in Brookfield, along with Brookfield restaurants Mary’s Morning Mix-Up, Brookfield Breakfast and Irish Times, and LaGrange restaurants Palmer Place and FourteenSixteen, all of which were open to participation in the project.
Now Vickery has created a schedule for Loyola employees to be delivered to the anesthesiology department, operating room, nursing staff, and surgical technicians twice a week for lunch or dinner.
Meals are individually packaged in the restaurants, and volunteer drivers collect the groceries and drop them off at the main entrance to Loyola, where a hospital employee distributes take-away meals.
The restaurants charge a discounted rate of between $ 10 and $ 12 per meal, and some of the restaurants have even been able to raise some of their own money to help fund the meals.
Carpenter Finer Foods offered to donate their first meals for free, and Brookfield-based Jennifer Froemel (owner of the mental health business Innovative Counseling Partners with offices in Oak Park and North Riverside) heard about the project and participated in the donation Fundraising.
Vickery said it had raised nearly $ 3,000 from locals at press time, and the group has now set up a GoFundMe page that can help raise more donations online.
Linda Tischler, owner of Tischler Finer Foods, said they served deli sandwiches, a side salad, an apple and a bag of french fries for the grocer’s first delivery of food. Her next meal, she said, will be a hot meal, like chicken or lasagna.
“It’s nice to see everyone pull together to get through this uncomfortable time,” she said. “We are all important and we all play an important role in getting through this time.”
Sullivan’s wife, Dr. Lisa Gramlich says the Loyola staff appreciated the friendliness of the Brookfield and LaGrange communities.
“I think people are very grateful,” said Gramlich. “It’s just nice to know that people think of you enough to donate these things.”
At FocusOm, Vickery and Sullivan also offer discounted courses for all first responders and first school students looking for a healthy way to recharge.
“We offer a healthy opportunity for connection,” said Vickery. “In a way, we used this pandemic to create more intimacy and stronger bonds with members and students.”
Visit the group’s GoFundMe page to donate money for local restaurant meals for Loyola’s medical staff.