SOMERVILLE-On Friday afternoon as concerns of the Coronavirus outbreak plunged the nation into a global pandemic, Dimitra Tsourianis of Daddy Jones’ Bar in Somerville knew she had to make an incredibly difficult decision. “I looked at my staff and I said, ‘Guys, I don’t see how we should be open when we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing.’ I just don’t feel right asking anybody to work,” Dimitra explained. While the formal closing of all bars and restaurants had yet to happen, she truly knew it was the right thing to do-and began encouraging her staff to seek unemployment as she was able to keep on only two workers on to help run a takeout window.
As Dimitra encouraged her employees to stay home and closed her own restaurant to protect others, the mother to two young children and daughter to elderly parents noticed not only an immediate need in her local community. “If someone loses their job for three weeks-or even longer-there will be a trickle down effect and we don’t know how long that will last,” she explained, taking notice as cafeterias closed to students and concerns rose for the elderly in leaving their homes to get to the grocery store. That’s when she knew it was time to put her remaining staff to work in a different way. “People are going to need food, and we can provide food. Let’s connect the two and bring food to those otherwise wouldn’t have it.”
Dimitra immediately started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to purchase cover the labor, food and containers for dinners to be donated to families in need via a unique delivery system that operates without any immediate contact. “The hard part was, how can I help others but not be near them? It’s a new way of thinking,” she explains, which is a struggle all too real to many. The best way she found was through an app many of us use every day: Instagram. “If someone sends us a message on our Instagram DM’s, we add them to a list. We prepare all the meals for the household, the driver will drop the bag off with an alcohol wipe outside their door and we message them back on Instagram when it’s outside,” she explains of the system that has helped make over 45 meals for others. From graduate students to parents of young children, donations of just over $10,000 have poured in to help Dimitra and her staff. On top of that, many other healthy people have stepped up to offering to help deliver food should they receive more orders than they can both make and deliver with such a short staff.
While it’s certainly a new era that Dimitra believes has changed many in the restaurant industry for life, she is committed to doing everything she can to help others during this time of crisis, offering 50% off all takeout orders for anyone in the restaurant industry or free delivered meals if they are quarantined. “As a parent, I think, what do people need? How can we be stronger through this? It all comes back to needing a sense of community,” she says. “I’ve been open for 8 years in November, and I’ve had that love for all of these years. All I can do now is give it back.”
If you or someone you love is in need of food, they can sign up for the meal list by reaching out to @daddyjonesbar on Instagram:
If you are able to help, please consider donating to Dimitra’s cause on GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/feed-students-through-somerville-restaurants