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Brewing gratitude, one bag at a time

From our front lines to theirs, members of the Respiratory Care Department at Hershey Medical Center got together to fund a $500 shipment of specialty coffee to a former colleague and her co-workers at a hospital in the heart of New York City.

The message, “Stay strong. Thank you for your heroism,” is handwritten on each bag of St. Thomas Roasters coffee and signed by the Penn State Health Respiratory Department. The first shipment was delivered to NYU Langone Health’s Tisch Hospital, where the former Hershey respiratory therapist now works, and another shipment is in the works.

“Our hearts just break for them,” said Pam Smith, a respiratory therapist who owns the Linglestown-based St. Thomas Roasters with husband Geof Smith. “It’s wonderful to feel like we’re giving them a little piece of normalcy in their craziness there.”

The New York City respiratory therapists replied with a social media post, showing a picture of the coffee and a message of thanks for keeping them “caffeinated and cared for.”

Similar gestures are taking place all over central Pennsylvania, thanks to the Smiths’ initiative, “To the Front Lines.” After they closed their coffee shop and were looking for ways to boost online buying, they got the idea to encourage messages of gratitude to health care workers via sponsored bags of coffee to area hospitals.

“It’s been absolutely incredible the amount of support we’ve gotten from the community,” Pam Smith said.

In the first two weeks, she delivered nearly 150 pounds of coffee to Hershey Medical Center and other hospitals and doctor offices in the Harrisburg area. One online order came from a firefighter sending coffee to a firehouse in Maryland that is transporting sick people from their homes for care.

“It’s been a huge win-win,” Smith said. “It’s giving people a way to say thanks, and it’s keeping our small business alive.”

In another cup of coffee love, Hershey Free Church and Love in the Name of Christ of Greater Hershey sponsored free $3 vouchers at Starbucks in Hershey Medical Center to anyone permitted to be at the hospital on April 10. Business was brisk.

“I’m hoping this will be a template for others in the community to do the same,” said David Craft, professor of pathology and board member of LoveINC., who facilitated the act of gratitude. “We were really blessed to be able to offer this on Good Friday of Easter weekend.”

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