As COVID-19 continues to impact the City of New Orleans, many small businesses have been forced to close altogether or adapt in ways they would never have imagined just a couple months ago. For Simply Dispensary, a local wellness products retailer with locations Uptown, in Mid-City, in the Marigny, and on the West Bank, that meant transitioning into a completely new industry in just a matter of weeks.
Since the beginning of March, Simply Dispensary has harnessed its relationships with suppliers and manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad to provide much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and hard-to-find supplies—hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and 3-ply disposable face masks—to restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses. “When it comes down to it, we are in the business of selling wellness products,” said co-owner and general manager Sean Partridge. “As this outbreak started affecting our city and the people we care about, and you can’t find the supplies you need to stay safe and well anywhere, we knew we had to start offering these products ourselves.” By mid-March, when the City of New Orleans announced the stay-at-home order, Simply Dispensary had already brought in inventory of hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and hand soap.
To the untrained eye, it looks like organized chaos. The lunchroom in Booker T. Washington High School, once filled with students, is now populated with HandsOn New Orleans volunteers in constant motion — packing meals into plastic bags, that are placed into boxes, which when filled are placed into cars to go to low-income housebound seniors and people who have medical disabilities. I became a part of that scene seven weeks ago when I signed up to volunteer with the organization. Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had time on my hands and knew this would be a productive way to help the community. It also got me out of the house and into a social setting with people.
The Mayor’s Neighborhood Engagement Office, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families, would like to invite you to participate in Junior Civic Leadership Academy (JCLA). This initiative from Mayor LaToya Cantrell is an engaging 8-week program that will provide youth with an in-depth look at city government. JCLA will meet virtually every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. starting June 6 through August 1 (excluding July 4). Enrollment opens today (April 27), and applications are available online. The program includes hands-on demonstrations and presentations that give participants an insider’s view of how the City of New Orleans operates.
Krewe of Red Beans, Rouses Markets, the Preservation Hall Foundation, Market Umbrella and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic & Assistance Foundation are partnering for a new effort to ease the pain of the pandemic, the Feed the Second Line program
On March 17, the Krewe of Red Beans, a group that holds a Lundi Gras walking parade, began raising money to buy food from locally owned New Orleans restaurants. Quickly, the effort grew. A month later, the Krewe of Red Beans was operating the largest such effort in the United States. As of April 19, the Feed the Front Line NOLA had sent over 60,000 meals to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers engaged directly with COVID-19 patients, spending $566,000 in the local economy so far. 49 restaurants and coffee shops are being supported by the initiative.
District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso and District B Councilman Jay Banks are holding weekly food distribution events for those who find themselves in financial straits because of the pandemic. Giarrusso is teaming up with state Rep. Mandie Landry, District 91, and Second Harvest Food Bank to give out food on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon in front of the Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School at 2901 S. Carrollton Ave. To sign up to volunteer or to get more information, contact Claire.Byun@nola.gov.
The District B food giveaway is hosted by Banks with assistance from Goodwill Industries, Second Harvest Food Bank, Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership Development) and Culture Aid NOLA. It’s held at the Goodwill store at Tulane Avenue and Jefferson Davis Parkway on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until supplies run out. For more information or to volunteer, call 504-658-1020.
We’ll Be Right Back is a homegrown podcast that shares the stories of local business owners and employees in the service sector and gig economy at-large. Host Greg Tilton interviews professionals and organizations that provide relief and resources that help the industry manage through COVID-19. This series highlights the work, status and future of the hospitality industry in New Orleans. This week’s episode: “Night Life Policy” with Mark Schettler of Bar Tonique
Schettler and Tilton share the types financial relief available to small businesses, how the industry should work together and get involved in policy discussions, and how to solve a potential rent crisis on the horizon. Uptown Messenger supports media efforts and exposure to voices like these.
When 61-year-old Lori Golden Freehling entered the Winn-Dixie on Tchoupitoulas Street on Wednesday morning, a store worker handed her a piece of paper that said “Random Act of Kindness” on it. She assumed it was some kind of promotion to show appreciation for store employees. But when she checked out her groceries, the cashier asked her, “Do you know who Tyler Perry is?”
Golden Freehling said of course – Tyler Perry is the multimillionaire creator of the mega-hit “Madea” movie franchise, and a New Orleans native. “She looked at me with this big smile and said, ‘Well, he just bought your groceries,’” Freehling said. Freehling wasn’t the only person to benefit from the star’s generosity.
Beginning Monday (March 30), Hands On New Orleans, in partnership with World Central Kitchen, is launching the Serving Seniors Program to provide free meal delivery service to home-bound, low-income seniors and chronically ill residents, who are at a greater risk of severe illness if exposed to the coronavirus. And they need volunteers. Volunteer drivers are needed to pick up and deliver meals to the doorsteps of seniors who have signed up on Monday and Thursday each week from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Hands On will coordinate a central pick up point and give volunteers their assignment. Each driver will deliver to five to six households in the same ZIP code. Volunteers need to be healthy and have a vehicle.
Donating or volunteering can alleviate the feelings of anxiety and helplessness — and the boredom — most of us are experiencing during this crisis. There are ways to help during this coronavirus pandemic without violating the stay-at-home order and putting yourself or others at risk. At the same time, you can reduce the risk for the front-line workers, help an out-of-work musician earn some money, virtually tip your favorite bartender, cheer up a nursing home resident and more. You don’t even need to donate — if you buy a restaurant gift card now, you can treat yourself and others to a nice dine-in meal when all this is over. (updated March 28)
Help with errands and more
Serving Seniors Program: Volunteer drivers are needed to pick up and deliver meals to the doorsteps of seniors and other high-risk residents on Mondays and Thursdays from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Hands On New Orleans, in partnership with World Central Kitchen, is coordinating the program. Each driver will deliver to five to six households in the same ZIP code.
If you went to even one parade this past Carnival season, you probably have a pile of beads in your house right now. Even if you didn’t, a bag of beads may be lurking in a closet or in the attic. That means you’ve done your part to keep beads off the streets and out of the drainage system during the parades. Now is the time — unless you haven’t had enough of the glue gun and are planning an art project — to recycle the colorful strands that were so much fun to catch. Most bead recycling in the region is through nonprofit organizations that provide jobs to disabled adults, who clean and sort the throws so they can be sold to float riders for the next season.
Heralding the Uptown parade season, the B’nai B’rith Mardi Gras Mitzva Makers will parade through local hospitals on Sunday, Feb. 2. For the 41st year, the Mitzva (Good Deed) Makers will gather at 9:30 a.m. at the Prytania Street entrance to Touro Infirmary Hospital to parade through the long-term care and rehabilitation centers, bringing the Mardi Gras experience to those not able to attend the festivities otherwise. The volunteer krewe of musicians and maskers also proceeds to nearby long-term care facility Curahealth Hospital on Coliseum Street and assisted-living facility Homelife in the Gardens on Aline Street. All are welcome to join this second-line parade by showing up in costume and with throws and an instrument, if you play, for the second-line band led by trumpeter and dentist Hilton Title.