Vero pulmonologist masterminds meal delivery to frontline workers

When she read a pandemic-related news story about people raising money to “feed workers on the frontlines in six different hospitals,” Vero Beach pulmonologist Michele Maholtz “thought it was an amazing idea.”

Dozens of phone calls and e-mails later, she had a list of recipients, a team of volunteers, a GoFundMe page, and a group of restaurants ready to participate. Having now delivered nearly 1,000 meals, Support Our Frontline is still going strong.

The first meals were delivered April 2 and, as of May 15, the doctor and her team of staff and volunteers had provided 979 breakfasts or lunches to “medical workers and law enforcement working tirelessly to keep us healthy and safe,” says Maholtz, who has practiced in Vero Beach for 20 years.

Along with supporting frontline workers, Maholtz says “we are also supporting our local restaurants, so it is a win-win situation, making a positive out of a negative during a very difficult time.”

With a goal of keeping meals at $10 or less, participating restaurants include Mrs. Mac’s Filling Station, Einstein Bagels and Brooklyn Water Bagels in Vero Beach, and The Italian Cousin in Sebastian.

Every weekday, the Support Our Frontline crew (and sometimes restaurant staff) deliver the fresh meals to various departments within Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital; the Vero Beach Police Department; the Indian River County Sheriff’s Department; 16 Fire Rescue and EMS stations; Sebastian River Medical Center; and the Sebastian Police Department.

Funds are being raised via the GoFundMe page and other donations: “One person donated $1,000,” says a grateful Maholtz, adding that, for scrupulous fund tracking, a separate account has been opened, and funds are overseen by accountant Janice Johnson.

So far, about $14,000 has been raised, and, as of May 15, $8,727.21 had been spent on meals.

The doctor credits her office manager Jane Cappelan, administrator Kim Boball, volunteers Liz and Chris Hammett and 20 other participants for keeping the wheels running smoothly and getting meals delivered on time.

“This is so much fun,” says Cappelan, who enjoys the seeing the pleasure and appreciation of the frontline workers who “don’t have to pack a lunch.”

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