Dedicated business owners in Windsor’s Via Italia have sent thousands of face masks, hospital hats and hot lunches to frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restaurants like Spago and Mezzo Ristorante and Lounge have been partnering with community organizations to feed emergency responders as well as staff at hospitals and long-term care homes.
Other Erie Street businesses, shut down during physical distancing protocol, took advantage of their downtime. Owners at both Vonella Custom Clothing and The Suit Shop have been using materials to make hospital caps and protective face masks.
Via Italia Business Improvement Area president Filip Rocca applauds the efforts of his members.
“Via Italia merchants have been doing everything they can to support those who put their lives at risk every day during this pandemic,” said Rocca, who also owns Mezzo Ristorante. “We’re proud to do our part.”
Mike and Silvana Vonella started making hats for hospital staff when a nurse, and friend of the family, asked for help. The couple used leftover material to hand make each hat. The project escalated when business leaders sponsored the small, tight-knit family operation.
Several business leaders have donated money to pay for new material, explained Mike Vonella Jr., who has been helping his parents sew for the first time in his life.
“We threw a post on Facebook about the hats and people were asking for them right away for other facilities,” Vonella said. “Then people just started saying, let us help contribute.”
Over at The Suit Shop, owner Lazaros Dimitriou launched the campaign Your Dress Shirt Can Save Lives Facemask Challenge. He asked people to donate cotton shirts, which he’s now using to make 500 masks for staff at Windsor Regional Hospital.
Spago was one of the first businesses to donate food to frontline workers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the restaurant has donated more than 1,000 meals. The owners have also partnered with Windsor developer Amico and other community organizations to donate meals to many groups, including firefighters and police.