CLEVELAND — Even as the novel coronavirus has brought hardship to small businesses, a group of business owners and churches in Cleveland's Detroit-Shoreway community have banded together to provide meals to the community.
St. Herman House, Banter, Calvary Reformed Church, Church of the Ascension and Gypsy Beans have all committed to providing free meals on different days of the week amid the coronavirus outbreak. For the owners of Banter and Gypsy Beans in particular, the outreach comes even as uncertainty surrounds their business.
"It's been hard but wonderful at the same time," said Nicole Brichacek, the owner of Gypsy Beans. "We're really seeing the community and the world gathering together to support one another and love on people. It's really refreshing."
Brichacek said, unfortunately, she was forced to lay off some of her 10 employees after Gov. Mike DeWine imposed a ban on dine-in establishments, bars and coffee shops amid the coronavirus outbreak. Gypsy Beans has transitioned to solely providing to-go coffee options. Other restaurants have implemented curbside pick-up or delivery options as well.
On Thursday, Brichacek was joined by members of her home church, One Love Community Church, to pass out free meals, including an entree and desert. Pastor Karlie Hale said the goal behind the outreach was more than just a meal.
"We're trying to spread some smiles with some sweets and trying to use those sweets as a commercial break in this thing called life that we're going through right now," Hale said. "Sometimes when you just smile it just breaks whatever they are going through and it helps them to realize that the best is yet to come."
Despite the impact of the coronavirus offering no end in sight, Brihacek said she will continue to offer the meals as long as possible. Ever since restaurants were shut down on Sunday night, Brichacek said she has received an outpouring of support from her loyal customer base.
"You get welled up. You're just seeing humanity at its finest. That's what I think we need to remember moving forward. It's going to be a while and we have to stay in this together for the long haul," Brichacek said. "It's nice to be a place that people are still elbow-bumping, grabbing their coffee, respecting their social distance but still getting that human interaction because we're really missing that."