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500 meals, blessing packages pulled together in two weeks during local campaign

Posted at 2:18 PM, Nov 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-26 17:50:18-05

CLEVELAND — Many families' 2020 Thanksgiving holiday looks a lot different, with digital screens transporting family members to the table to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.

Nearly 90,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 700,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims, 54 million Americans aren't sure where their next meal will come from, which is an increase from 17 million before the pandemic.

That large-and-growing need inspired local businesses to band together trying to ease that burden one meal at a time.

"It's like Jenga," said Angie's Pizza owner Tammie Konicki as she packed up her car.

While many people navigate a different kind of holiday meal, others are in danger of not having a meal at all.

"I mean, there are people always worse off than us," said Konicki.

That's what brought Konicki and Town Planner Calender's Digital Marketer Sarah Buntura together in early November to help feed the homeless just two weeks later.

"We had two cans of corn and $200," said Konicki.

That's when the networking started.

In the middle of a global pandemic that has threatened small businesses all over Ohio and the nation, many of those same businesses wanted to join the effort.

"We went and explained what we were doing and businesses were like, 'What can we do to help' without hesitation,' said Buntura.

Over the next few days, they gathered enough donations from other businesses and people for 500 meals and 500 "blessing packages" filled with items like hand warmers, playing cards, lip balm, and anything else that might help them brave a Cleveland winter on the streets.

"These are necessities for these people in downtown Cleveland especially during these cold months coming up," said Buntura. "We all have a need and it's to feel that people care."

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