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At the weekend, New York City reported zero deaths from COVID-19. It marks a turning point for Bird & Branch’s owners Brandon and Faith Lee (and their new born daughter). They’ve always described their business as a “speciality coffee shop with a mission to restore the city.” The pandemic has been their biggest challenge so far. They’ve been providing breakfast and coffee for essential workers. They are now switching their efforts to homeless shelters and food banks.
“Starting 2020, we were excited because it was going to be maybe the first year that we were stress-free. We were anticipating that our business would continue to grow.” Faith describes the changes in fortune for their coffee business on W45th Street, “Then the pandemic came. You’re juggling a newborn, no sleep and what to do with the business every day, we wondered whether or not we should close it, keep it open. How can we keep our staff safe? Just so many things to think about.”
The Lees are resourceful. They saw other shops creating relief funds, adding a GoFundMe page or selling merchandise. “We felt like there was something more that our customers would be interested in doing. I was in New York for 9/11, and I saw the way that New Yorkers responded. This was a similar situation.” describes Brandon,”People want to have a tangible impact. If people could actually pitch in and go to the hospitals and help out with patients, I’m sure they would. It’s just not safe.”
The Lees set up a #GiveCovidTheBird campaign. They set up a simple offer, for $5 you can send a small breakfast and a cup of coffee to someone who needs it.
“So many people purchased breakfast for hospital staff. People really jumped to it.” added Faith, “A little bit can go a long way. We saw people being more generous and more caring because of the pandemic. I think we were just learning how to lift each other up.”
Bird and Branch staff were able to assemble and deliver over 3,000 breakfasts and care packages to 50+ hospitals and nursing homes from their shop.
The Lees said: “We are relieved to see that the burden on hospitals has subsided significantly and we are forever grateful for the work done and sacrifices made by those in the healthcare industry. However, the fight against COVID-19 is not over. Millions of people have been affected by this pandemic, not just physically, but economically as well. We are continuing the #GiveCovidTheBird campaign by partnering with homeless shelters and food banks to provide breakfasts for those with food insecurity. For $5 you can send a small breakfast and a cup of coffee to someone who needs it.”
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