UNC cancer center volunteers helping local restaurants, healthcare workers one meal at a time

Orange County News

The pandemic has taken a toll on just about everyone from healthcare workers to restaurant employees. Now a group of volunteers has found a way to help both of those groups at once.

At UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the pandemic has made an already stressful job even tougher. “You have a new diagnosis and you can’t reassure the family by touch,” explained Dr. Stuart Gold, who cares for children with cancer. “You have someone who comes off therapy and you can’t hug them and celebrate. It’s so hard to explain what an emotional toll that takes on the family and all the staff.”

As weeks go by, Wednesdays have become a bright spot. UNC Lineberger’s Patient and Family Advisory Council is buying meals from local restaurants and delivering them to staff at the cancer center. They’re doing it with the help of donations.

“UNC’s interfraternity council and inter-sorority council have literally raised half the funds for us,” said Loretta Muss, coordinator of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. “It does my heart good to see the goodness that’s out there.”

Since the pandemic started the program has grown from providing 50 meals to 250. Those meals aren’t just for doctors and nurses. “We’re feeding everybody – from the social workers, pharmacists, parking guys downstairs, hopefully, some of the housekeeping staff,” said Muss. “That’s kind of our way of saying thank you.”

It’s also a way to help out local restaurants struggling after the pandemic shut their dining rooms for months. “I think it’s really important that we support our businesses,” said Muss.

“Being provided lunch sounds so trivial, but it has been so special,” said Gold. He thinks the restaurant meals and homemade desserts are delicious, but it’s about more than that. “It’s just that people care enough to do that and recognize that life’s different at the hospital, and so it’s really just knowing people have our backs,” he explained.

Muss added, “It is a labor of love.”

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