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Local couple launches donation platform that pairs Ann Arbor restaurants with frontline workers

A2 Neighbors uses donations to deliver meals to healthcare workers from local eateries

Staff members at York pose with A2 Neighbors' first delivery on April 16, 2020.
Staff members at York pose with A2 Neighbors' first delivery on April 16, 2020. (York)

ANN ARBOR – A local couple -- who prefer to remain anonymous -- recently figured out a creative way to support some of their favorite locally-owned area restaurants and frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

They launched A2 Neighbors -- a site that accepts public donations for restaurant orders -- on Monday, April 13, and in the first 48 hours raised over $4,000.

When visiting the site, donors can choose which restaurant they would like to order from and which healthcare system they would like the meals to go to. The group is working with Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor VA and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to coordinate deliveries.

“We’re going to try to fill orders of about 25-50 folks at a time because that’s usually a shift for the ER or other COVID-19 units that they’ve formed," said one of the organizers. “Even the custodial staff who are putting themselves at risk in a stressful situation could use a thank you, too.”

Staff at York on 1928 Packard St. prepare jamón serrano and caprese sandwiches for a shift of medical workers at Ann Arbor VA on April 16, 2020. (York Ann Arbor)

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Participating restaurants include:

  • York
  • Angelo’s
  • BTB Burrito
  • Jerusalem Garden
  • Shalimar
  • Thrive Juicery
  • Curry On AA
  • Miss Kim
  • Detroit Filling Station/ The Lunch Room
  • Pacific Rim
  • Mr. Spots

To place an order, click here.

York delivered A2 Neighbors’ first order to Ann Arbor VA Hospital on Thursday, April 16.

“The (organizers) contacted us and they did all the footwork," said owner Tommy York. “They’re amazing and came up with a neat way for the hospital staff to get food and for the local businesses to get business."

A hospital representative at Ann Arbor VA accepts A2 Neighbors' first lunch delivery from York on April 16, 2020. (York)

During a time when York has seen a 50%-70% decrease in business each day, the order for 50 sandwiches, which totaled more than $500 was significant for the market-style shop.

"We are very grateful,” said York.

Meanwhile owner of Jerusalem Garden, Ali Ramlawi, who also sits on Ann Arbor City Council, said he was happy to join the effort and connected the organizers with Ann Arbor SPARK to help with the donation side of the project.

“They really did a lot of the work themselves,” said Ramlawi. “I just helped connect the dots and put them in touch with Ann Arbor SPARK, who is the fiduciary responsible for the capital that’s raised. With the help of SPARK, they were able to bring their idea to life.”

Ramlawi said that Jerusalem Garden is a catering partner with the University of Michigan and is used to feeding hospital staff, but that COVID-19 changes how orders are prepared.

“The challenge right now is that before all this, people would have lunch in a family-style setting, and nowadays people are having (individual) boxed lunches due to the measures being taken,” he said.

Ramlawi reported that business is down 80%-90% at times, but said he is fortunate to remain open when so many other colleagues in the industry have had to close their doors. His landlord also voluntarily opted to help offset his rent, which has taken some stress out of the situation.

“I’m really concerned for this industry,” said Ramlawi. “It’s very devastating for a lot of people. I don’t know if it will come back to normal – ever.”

To make a donation to A2 Neighbors, click here.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.