In April, as local business owner and West End resident Guy Neumann was realizing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to take action. Taking action and giving back to the community is nothing new for Guy, who founded the Hartford Rib Off charitable event 11 years ago.
“I just felt like I could do more. I had the idea to buy lunches from local businesses that could use support. And then show our gratitude to essential workers for their hard work and the risk they’re taking doing service during this crisis,” he explains. “I thought it was a great way to get people engaged so they felt like they were helping and to show that the community can come together to support one another in very simple ways.”
Guy used social media to spread the word about his willingness to help and give back. “I posted on the West End Living Facebook page that my company, GN Construction, LLC would donate and deliver pizza kits from Joe Pizza in Simsbury to those in need,” he explains. “I got 46 requests—some from people who wanted to pay—and I delivered everything myself on March 31.”
Motivated by the positive response he received, Guy created a campaign with the hashtag #WestEndItForward to take donations through PayPal and Venmo. “The engagement on social media was pretty high,” Guy says. “People felt like they became a part of something. They wanted to do more. I took a lot of people up on their offer to help me with deliveries.”
In a five-week span, the #WestEndItForward campaign donated 1,150 meals to various essential worker groups at the Hartford Department of Public Works, the Hartford Fire Department, Hartford Hospital, Hebrew Home and Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and UConn Health.
The campaign bought food from 10 local businesses, Banh Meee, Craft Bird, China House, Get It Toasted, Hartford Baking Company, Juiced Up, Luna Pizza, Mo’s Midtown, Sisson Pizza, and Tangiers International Market.
“We never asked for special deals, but each place paid it forward by throwing in something extra,” explains Guy. “For example, we bought 50 lunches from Mo’s Midtown for the operating room staff at Saint Francis Hospital and Mo’s donated 10 additional lunches.”
More than 150 neighbors from the West End contributed donations ranging from $10 to $500. “Our community is very strong and we stepped up to the plate,” emphasizes Guy. “I’m very proud of the fact that the West End of Hartford donated $8,500 worth of lunches during this period from a variety of local businesses to a variety of different departments at our local hospitals and healthcare organizations.”
Guy’s company, GN Construction, also participated in a community initiative organized by the West End Civic Association to address food insecurity in the West End of Hartford. GN Construction helped build pantries located at 41 Evergreen Avenue and 70 North Beacon Street. Inspired by those pantries, neighbors on West Boulevard asked to manage their own food pantry. GN Construction received $250 to cover most of the costs of setting up a third pantry at 968 West Boulevard.
“The community came together and did our part. It’s about small businesses supporting small businesses and supporting those on the frontlines,” says Guy.