Friends of Jack supports coronavirus first responders with meals

Apr 1, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — When faced with surgeries, police visits, switching homes in foster care and other situations that stress children out, the response from the Friends of Jack is always to give. In the face of coronavirus, their response is now to give even more. 

As the Southcoast prepares for a medical crisis due to the spread of coronavirus, the Friends of Jack Foundation, a medical charity started by Mattapoisett’s Jilline Fearons, has kept up or modified its old programs to help children in need while also starting new efforts as a response to the virus. 

The foundation has traditionally given every child that enters its partner hospitals a teddy bear to make them less nervous. 

“We are definitely continuing more than ever our bears,” Fearons said, especially because some children can only have one visitor in the hospital and may need the extra comfort a stuffed animal provides. 

However, the medical charity has made an effort to “quarantine” its bears, by sealing them in individual plastic bags, where they then sit for 14 or 15 days to avoid the spread of germs. It has also suspended its teddy bear drive through April 30. 

The demand for bears has actually been less from hospitals, as fewer children have been in for surgeries, but Fearons has noted an uptick in demand from State Police officers, who also carry bears to comfort children, as more kids are anxious because they do not have their normal routine.

Food for Tots, the Friends of Jack annual fundraiser which raises money to improve pediatric healthcare and provide teddy bears and superhero capes to children in hospitals, will be postponed until June. 

Instead, the organization is working to organize a program called Food for Docs.

Every Tuesday, the Friends of Jack purchases prepackaged lunches from On the Go, Kate’s Simple Eats, and Uncle Jon’s and delivers them to medical providers who are working to treat coronavirus at their partner hospitals that have chosen to accept the food donations.   

If needed, the organization will deliver food twice a week. 

For Fearons, it was just another way to “take care of the people who are working so hard to take care of us.” 

“We are happy to help them launch” said Corey Lorenco at On the Go, adding that “people don’t realize that with first responders, these people aren’t getting breaks.”

Lorenco said that On the Go is used to handling catering orders, however with the coronavirus he is taking more precautions with packaging, screening employees and the workspace, and with avoiding contact with vendors. 

The caterer explained that this will probably only ramp up in the next week or two, and healthcare providers may not be allowed to go home. 

Fearons said that all the restaurants were amazing when she pitched the new idea. Food for Tots relied on restaurants to donate 15% of their profits on certain days or nights. The restaurant owners assumed that the new fundraiser would have much the same model. 

“When I first presented the idea to them, they thought I meant for them to donate, and they didn’t bat an eye, even though this is a tough time for restaurants to donate,” Fearons said. 

The foundation’s director has said that her role has also changed in the time of coronavirus. Although she still makes frequent trips to hospitals to deliver bears, food or other needed supplies, she is now limited to dropping supplies off, and misses seeing the people she has made friends with inside the hospitals. 

However, in keeping with her personal mission to “look for the rainbow in every storm,” she hopes that after this passes, things “may be better than the way they were.”