May-June 2020

Acts of kindness

The worst of times has brought out the best in many local residents

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Gina Semeraro picking up food from Smoke BBQ in Bethesda to deliver to Suburban Hospital’s ER. Courtesy photo

Feeding Her Heroes

While Gina Semeraro, a nurse, was picking up food at Mastiha Artisan Greek Bakery in Kensington in late March, the shop’s owner, Katerina Georgallas, offered to donate some items for Semeraro to share with other health care workers. Semeraro, who works at an orthopedic surgery center in Bethesda, told Georgallas that she would love to take a meal to her former colleagues in Suburban Hospital’s emergency room, where she’d worked for 13 years. “What most people don’t realize is what a dangerous job it is working in the emergency room,” says Semeraro, who considers the staff “superheroes.” Georgallas offered to prepare hummus and spanakopita for her to deliver to the hospital the next day. Semeraro later posted on Facebook about Georgallas’ donation, and Roberto Pietrobono, co-owner of Olazzo, reached out to say that he’d like to contribute dinner. “I had asked him, ‘If I can get you some donation money, should I just have people call you?’ And he said, ‘No, I don’t want the money,’ ” Semeraro says.

Suburban ER staff filling plates with food from Chef Tony’s. Courtesy photo

Then she posted a note on the page of a Facebook group called Bethesda Bar Buddies and heard from other Bethesda restaurants, including Chef Tony’s, Smoke BBQ and Caddies on Cordell, saying they wanted to donate food, too. Strangers contacted her to contribute money so she could buy food from local restaurants. “It just snowballed from there,” Semeraro says. Within a week she had made five deliveries of dinner and dessert for the ER staff—from nurses and doctors to security workers and the cleaning crew. Food also came from Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle and Hanaro Sushi.

“It makes my heart so full that people I don’t know are messaging me saying, ‘Where I can send money to, who can I call?’ ” says Semeraro, who worked in the restaurant industry while she was in nursing school. “It makes it so touching to know that these restaurant owners aren’t super wealthy, they’re struggling, too, and yet they’re still going to help—that’s what I love about this so much.”

“Our CrossFit gym, Tough Temple, had to close this week. Before we closed, we offered to allow members to take a piece of equipment home, like dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. We are posting workouts and live streaming with coaches daily to keep members fit and engaged through all of this. Well, the day we were closing, a young couple came into the gym and offered to pay for anyone who couldn’t pay their membership during the closure—knowing we are a small business that will be affected by closing and that many people are losing their incomes. It was very touching to see there are people willing to support others, even in the smallest measures. It was [a] touching gesture and true testament to how close our community has become.” —Victoria Karolenko, coach Tough Temple, Rockville