Monique Walker (foreground) greets health care workers as they enter to get food donated by local businesses. Hundreds of meals and thousands of bottles of water were donated, along with other goods.

Monique Walker was lying in bed and, like many, trying to process the stresses of life in the era of COVID-19. The Olive Branch realtor knew that she wanted to do something to give back to essential workers in her community and to make sure they know they are supported. Walker also knew there was only so much she could do on her own. So she got out her laptop and got to work.

Walker came up with an idea for a campaign of local businesses showing their support for frontline workers by donating meals and other supplies. She dubbed the effort “Donate To Essential” and started by reaching out to around 20 local restaurants to see if they would be interested in donating meals to essential workers. 

“I said, ‘It could be our family member or us in their shoes, so this is important right now for us to do,’” Walker said. 

Though many of her requests went unanswered, a few businesses did agree to partner with Walker. An Olive Garden in Southaven donated 100 lunches, Moe’s in Olive Branch provided another 100 at a discount, and Niagara Bottling in Byhalia, MS donated over 2,000 bottles of water. 

Walker also put together goodie bags with items like motivational badge clips for health care workers, hand sanitizer donated by a local lending company, and mini cake coupons from Nothing Bundt Cakes. 

All these donations were given to employees at Methodist Olive Branch Hospital this week.

One of the effects of the pandemic has been a heightened awareness of the work done by health care professionals, according to Dr. Shailesh Patel, chief medical officer at Methodist Olive Branch. 

Patel says that the morale of health care workers has improved dramatically since the start of the pandemic in March. Working through the pandemic has helped ease some of those early fears, and community support has helped boost morale. 

“This lets us know that the community appreciates what we're doing for them day in and day out,” Patel said. “They know that we're here working tirelessly to take care of their loved ones, our loved ones as well. And small gestures like this are huge and mean a lot to us,”

Walker plans to continue recruiting businesses and setting up donation days for teachers and other essential workers in the county. 

“It’s gone great so I’m not stopping now. We have to show up for our community,” Walker said. 

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