Collins Hill High School junior Christa Campbell just wants to help her community during the COVID-19 coronavirus disease outbreak.

Campbell knows several people who work in the health care profession. Some of them are in her own family. Others are parents of friends. That has given her an indication of the demands and stress health care workers are facing on the front line of the pandemic.

So she and some friends decided to organize an effort with local restaurants to show health care workers at Northside Hospital-Gwinnett in Lawrenceville that they are appreciated.

“I think it’s really important to help our medical staff, because I don’t know if everyone knows this or not, but they’re working 12-hour shifts without enough time to go out and get a meal,” Campbell said.

Campbell, 16, recently started the Gwinnett Meal Bridge with help from Shivani Desai and Nathan Eyasu, who she works with on Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Gwinnett Student Leadership Team. The idea is that Gwinnett County residents can buy meals that will be delivered to hospital workers.

Eight restaurants in Lawrenceville are participating in the effort, and Campbell said the interest form the community has been strong enough so far that she is lining up restaurants in the Norcross area so the Gwinnett Meal Bridge can provide meals to workers at the Good Samaritan Health Clinic of Gwinnett County as well.

“So we just started (last) week, but so far we’ve provided anywhere from 70 to 100 meals a day,” she said.

Participating restaurants, so far, include Universal Joint, Cosmo’s Little Italy and Blue Rooster Bake Shop and Eatery on the Lawrenceville Square, Chili’s on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Jason’s Deli on Duluth Highway in Lawrenceville, Cuernavaca Grill Mexican Restaurant on Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville, Feast 26 in Buford and Smokin’ Gold Barbecue in Lilburn.

There is a website where residents can sign up to say they will sponsor groups of meals, in increments of five, 10 or 15 meals, but that is to let Campbell know how many meals are being sponsored that day. After a person signs up, they must then call one of the restaurants to place the order.

The site can be found at bit.ly/2XxeFIv.

Although the smallest group size listed on the website is five meals, Campbell said there is not a set-in-stone minimum requirement. Some restaurants are allowing residents to pay for as little as two meals, she said. The price of a meal varies from restaurant to restaurant and depends on what is being ordered, but Campbell said a meals is generally in the neighborhood of $10.

Campbell said she’s been pleased with the response she has gotten so far from restaurants interested in participating in the effort.

“It’s been so amazing,” she said. “They’ve been really helpful and I don’t know if I would have been able to do this without this support. Universal Joint has been really helpful since the beginning and all of them have been amazing and constantly in touch with me. Blue Rooster and Cosmo’s, I have their numbers saved in my phone, and Chick-fil-A just offered to donate 200 meals, which is insane.

“It’s just been, honestly, really touching to see all of these people in our community come together because when I started this, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go and I was kind of nervous that it wouldn’t take off, but it’s doing amazing.”

Campbell said a desire to help is part of her personality, and that she loves service and helping others.

She got the idea for the Gwinnett Meal Bridge from a similar effort in Atlanta. That effort was started by a student as well.

Her immediate response when she learned about it was to want to be a part of it.

“I need to help, I need to do something,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t feel right to just sit around and do nothing while these workers are working really hard — the medical staff is working really hard— to fight this.”

So, Campbell reached out to the Atlanta meal bridge’s organizer, and asked some questions about starting something like that in Gwinnett County. They agreed to partner with Campbell running the effort in Gwinnett.

Campbell then got other Gwinnett Student Leadership Team members, mainly Desai and Eyasu, to help with the effort.

There are also other ways Gwinnett residents can support the effort if they can’t afford to buy a large number of meals or would prefer to just offer financial support to cover meals in case there are time periods when no one has signed up to pay for meals.

“We also launched a GoFundMe for people who didn’t want to sign up necessarily, but they still wanted to donate,” Campbell said. “We just reached $1,000 (on April 8), which was awesome because that our goal.

“We still need more if we want this to continue, this fund to feed the doctors and nurses at the hospitals, hopefully throughout the rest of the coronavirus.”

The GoFundMe campaign can be found at bit.ly/2K4NBbD.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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