Jori Weissman (BS Hospitality Management, ’04) and her colleagues at Alonti Catering Kitchen hope to make this National Nurses Week special for health care workers. So far, her team has delivered over $3,600 in fresh meals to frontline workers during the pandemic.
“If nurses ever needed positive reinforcement, right now is the time,” Weissman said. “You want to do anything you can to help these people who are helping others and putting their lives at risk, every single day.”
Paying It Forward to Frontline Workers
Alonti is a business catering company that serves communities in Illinois, Texas and California. As a catering sales manager, Weissman has built some of her strongest partnerships with area hospitals. When coronavirus cases began to rise, Weissman saw the messages pour in from her colleagues and clients, asking: what can we do to help?
Weissman and other regional sales managers raised the idea of a way to collect and distribute donations to feed frontline workers. By raising funds to donate meals, Alonti Catering Kitchen can show its appreciation to health care workers while continuing to support their staff. The GoFundMe escalated into a national campaign.
“Even as sales managers, we all donated,” Weissman said. “Not because anybody asked us to or told us to, because we want to help too. It’s the only way to say thank you.”
With a skeleton crew, Weissman and her colleagues have been collecting donations and delivering free meals with encouraging notes for health care workers. To date, the business catering company has delivered over 330 from-scratch meals to frontline workers. The fund’s first allocation went to the hard-working respiratory department at Rush University Medical Center.
A Real-World Education
Weissman’s favorite part of her job used to be driving through the city, her car loaded with box lunches, introducing Alonti to businesses and treating potential clients to lunch. Recently, she spent her days behind a desk. Although Weissman had been working with many of her clients for years, she now had to quickly figure out new protocols to get them meals safely when they were most needed.
Weissman says that her Roosevelt education prepared her to think on her feet, and find innovative ways to feed people the way Alonti has done in the past.
“My teachers were not just these textbook professors,” she said. “Roosevelt is the best hospitality program out there because your teachers really do teach you what the world is going to be like, and how to adjust to it on a whim — or a pandemic.”
At Roosevelt, Weissman studied with educators who also worked in the field: her professors were hotel general managers, restaurant consultants, and brewery owners. Her courses were both practical and fun. After the final in her Food, Spirits and Wine class, she and her (of-age) classmates tasted and learned about different champagnes. She took a field trip with another course to the casino in Joliet.
Well after graduation, her professors still supported her as references and resources. “When I was still green and new in this industry, if I didn’t know something or feel like I could ask this person, I could always shoot an email to a certain teacher,” she said.
Weissman hopes her team will be able to expand the campaign and pay it forward to more first responders: the police officers, firefighters and grocery store workers who continue to go into work every day.
“At the end of the day, when you go into the hospitality industry, you’re here to help people,” she said. “It doesn’t matter in what way, shape or form.”
Want to contribute to the pay-it-forward initiative? Visit https://bit.ly/3fqAIqH