By Ellen Braunstein
As the coronavirus forces wedding cancellations and postponements, two Washington-area wedding vendors have pivoted their businesses to help fight COVID-19. Something Vintage Rentals has organized a mask-making drive and Occasions Catering has launched “Occasions Giving Kitchen,” a fundraising initiative that brings wholesome meals to under-served communities.
Based in the District, Something Vintage Rentals specializes in reclaimed, handmade and heirloom pieces for weddings and other events. Owner Dawn Crothers mobilized a network of 150 volunteers to make the face covers that protect front-line health workers from respiratory infection. The rental shop is also paying additional seamstresses and laid off workers to help fulfill mask orders.
Volunteers have turned out 4,000 masks so far. Crothers’ company is providing many of the volunteers with the pattern, material and elastic at drop-off points throughout the metro area.
The protective face shields that Crothers calls Victory Masks have gone to Children’s National Hospital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Community of Hope and nursing homes.
“Word spread through social media,” Crothers said of Something Vintage’s signature multi-colored masks. “We discovered that so many hospitals needed them and it just kind of blossomed and exploded from there. People just want to help our frontline healthcare workers.”
Harvey Green, Medstar vice president and chief philanthropy officer, said, “We are so grateful to Dawn and her team for dedicating themselves to making these homemade masks.”
Cole Norton, a potter for Something Vintage and a nursing home worker, has sewn 200 masks so far. “I think it’s important to keep everyone healthy. I’ve taken care of COVID-19 patients at a nursing home so I know how serious it is.”
Under normal circumstances Occasions Caterers in Washington is a full-service catering company that specializes in elegant cuisine for weddings and other events. They offer couples fully customized menus, a wedding consultant team and talented chefs.When the pandemic hit, Occasions formed Occasions Giving Kitchen to provide philanthropic relief feeding efforts for homebound seniors and disadvantaged youth and families. The special events vendor is working with DC Greens, a food justice program, Wards 7 and 8, churches and N Street Village.
They are also safely delivering food to frontline workers who need to eat on the job. To date, Occasions Giving Kitchen has provided more than 37,700 meals to communities in need.
Director of Marketing Denise Vu, said, “Hunger has been something that has been close to our co-founders Mark and Eric Michael. “We’ve always been working with many organizations that combat hunger in the city. Once the pandemic hit, it was really natural to work with these partners through the Giving Kitchen, which is the philanthropic relief feeding efforts.”
The Giving Kitchen has access to an extensive kitchen, a delivery fleet and food and supply chains. “It really just made sense,” Vu said. “When we formalized it, we started asking clients for donations to help with this really important effort for the city.”
Donations run the gamut from $10 to hundreds or more. Clients who had to cancel the events are applying the money for the relief fund to help with the food drive efforts. Occasions is also donating proceeds from its home meal kits and Mobile Market, a convenient, safe, drive-through market that is open twice a week.
“We’re making sure there is access to food throughout the city during this shutdown,” Vu said. “It’s at the core of what we do, bring happiness to people in the form of food and catering. Really this is no different, it’s just a different circumstance.”
Ellen Braunstein is a writer in Chicago.