As the COVID-19 pandemic causes general uncertainty for individuals and businesses alike, Amanda Pohlman saw an opportunity to make an impact. A Realtor at Keller Williams Greater Cleveland Southeast, the Shaker Heights resident came up with the idea to order food from local restaurants and deliver weekly meals to the families of first responders. She calls the operation: Fund to Feed Our First Responders.
Within the first two weeks, Pohlman and her team at Keller Williams, and with the help of volunteer high school seniors, 115 meals were delivered. The first week was in partnership with Marotta’s and the second week was Gigi’s on Fairmount, both in Cleveland Heights. This next week’s meals were through Zhug in Cleveland Heights, with an order of 90 meals placed. Upcoming restaurants include City Barbecue and Choolah.
“We found restaurants that were doing carry-out and we guaranteed that we’d buy meals from them every week, usually three times a week,” Pohlman said. “Then we identified who the community heroes are and are looking to feed their families. We know the heroes on the front lines don’t have time to cook for their families because they’re at work. So whether they’re at work or not, their family will still have a hot meal.”
Pohlman said it’s about helping as many people as possible. That’s why having touch points in three different groups – front line workers, restaurants and high school seniors – was so important to her.
“We use high school seniors that may have uncompleted volunteer hours needed to graduate, so we’re helping three groups – the families affected, the restaurants and the seniors who need service hours,” she said. “That’s why its a win-win for everyone. And we don’t ask the restaurants to donate food – we just ask that they can guarantee they’ll be able to make our orders when we place them.”
The idea was born out of Pohlman’s experience with Keller Williams, which has “a culture committed to giving back to communities,” as well as the experiences of those close to her.
“For me personally, one of my friends runs a restaurant,” she said. “Immediately when all of this happened and she got shut down, I thought, ‘what could I do to help her.’ From there, it went to what can I do to help restaurants in general to what can I do to help everyone, the heroes. This is a way of me supporting those groups in our community that need support and deserve to be shouted out and appreciated.”
Though Fund to Feed Our First Responders has a few weeks planned in advance, Pohlman said she aims to do this for as long as there is a need.
“We’d like to continue doing something like this on an ongoing basis to support and say thanks to our community first responders,” she said. “We have so many private donors and corporate sponsors that want to help. They pay the restaurants directly through our program. So, we’re doing it for as long as we have to and don’t plan to put a limit on it.”