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Ann Arbor caterer delivers meals to frontline workers, homeless during COVID-19 crisis

What’s Cooking! owner Stacy Williams has delivered thousands of meals to those in need

Stacy Williams (center) with meals ready to be delivered to Peace Neighborhood Center.
Stacy Williams (center) with meals ready to be delivered to Peace Neighborhood Center. (Stacy Williams)

ANN ARBOR – Stacy Williams’ meal delivery service What’s Cooking! has been in business for nearly 20 years serving residents fresh, healthy ready-made meals.

But when the COVID-19 outbreak began, she wanted to do more.

Just as school closures were announced, a GoFundMe was started to support frontline medical staff at Michigan Medicine and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals.

“Multiple nurses are not able to eat during their shift due to not having food available or the time to eat,” an ICU nurse at St. Joe’s was quoted saying on the fundraising page.

“Just coincidentally at the same time there was a GoFundMe for the hospitals, they contacted me and asked if I wanted to hook up with them and do the meals that they are collecting," said Williams.

Already accustomed to preparing large-scale ready-made meals for families and area schools, Williams accepted the challenge. After seeing the outpouring of donations, she added a section on her catering website to collect funds for the GoFundMe.

Frontline workers at U-M's Mott Children's Hospital accept a meal delivery from What's Cooking!
Frontline workers at U-M's Mott Children's Hospital accept a meal delivery from What's Cooking! (Stacy Williams)

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Not long after launching the hospital meals effort, Williams was connected with Pastor Vicky Lovell of Zion Lutheran Church, who for years has worked with homeless individuals in Ann Arbor.

“A friend of mine was telling me everything that Zion is doing for the homeless population," said Williams. “I connected with this fantastic pastor who’s really involved in the homeless community."

“One of my parishioners contacted me and asked if I knew Stacy," said Lovell. “Stacy is so kind. The first several meals she made she didn’t ask for anything. She has a huge heart and is very giving. Her own daughter used her own money and bought drinks for everybody."

For years, Zion has hosted a regular rotation temporarily housing the homeless, and Lovell’s congregation is one of many local organizations who opened their doors after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at the city’s shelter, the Delonis Center.

“This year in March we were supposed to host a week, but with everything going on with COVID we were asked to host for two weeks and so we did,” said Lovell.

Associate Pastor Vicky Lovell.
Associate Pastor Vicky Lovell. (Zion Lutheran Church)

However, as cases of the virus ramped up, Zion was no longer able to shelter the 27 men due to its communal setting. Despite the development, Williams and Lovell still work together on a regular basis to get food to homeless individuals in need at four sites that are allowing them to shelter in place 24 hours a day.

Williams said that while Food Gatherers’ Community Kitchen is providing meals at these locations, more food is needed. She is coordinating with Lovell, who personally delivers the food herself.

“Because I have these relationships with Delonis’ directors that we’ve built over the course of the past several years, they knew I was totally fine with being on the front lines," said Lovell.

Pastor Vicky Lovell and Stacy Williams prepare to deliver meals from the What's Cooking! commercial kitchen.
Pastor Vicky Lovell and Stacy Williams prepare to deliver meals from the What's Cooking! commercial kitchen. (Stacy Williams)

As for Williams, she said her business is perfectly set up to be preparing and delivering meals during the pandemic. With a limited staff, she is cooking meals at her commercial kitchen on Ann Arbor’s south side.

“Luckily, our model is pretty darn perfect for this situation," she said. “We don’t have customers coming to us -- everything is delivered out. We have very few people working on the operation at the same time and we have quite a large space.”

She estimates that What’s Cooking! has prepared over two thousand meals for those in need since the coronavirus outbreak began.

In addition to the GoFundMe for local hospitals and Zion Lutheran Church, What’s Cooking! is now working with local gift card programs A2 Helps and LoopWhole.

To learn more about What’s Cooking! visit www.whatscookinga2.com.

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