Giving Thanks: Sweets treats for doctors’ devotion

These days, hospitals unfortunately are suffering from a severe shortage of protective medical supplies.

Giving Thanks: Sweets treats for doctors’ devotion (photo credit: Courtesy)
Giving Thanks: Sweets treats for doctors’ devotion
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Until recently, Ricki Appel worked as the guest services manager at the Herzliya Sheraton Hotel. In addition, she would volunteer once a week at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center emergency room. Now that she’s been put on unpaid leave, she decided to fill her time in a very creative way that helps medical teams at the hospital, who are overwhelmed by the current COVID-19 epidemic.
“Once the virus began to spread, we were told that volunteers were no longer allowed to come to the hospital, since that could potentially exacerbate the spread of the virus,” Appel explains. “And so Shlomit Elrom-Ajman, the volunteer coordinator, and I decided to start a new project in which we’d collect food and treats that we would distribute to the medical staff at the hospital, as a way of saying thank you to them for their devotion and around-the-clock work.”
The two were joined by other volunteers, including Nurit Danvitz and Yigal Shuler. The hospital began advertising the service on Facebook, and so far they’ve gotten lots of positive feedback.
“We began working on this venture on March 15, and we’ve had lots of people calling us, offering to bake cakes and cookies, order pizzas, send drinks and all sorts of treats – pretty much anything you could think of,” continues Appel. “For example, last week we sent 20 hamburgers to one of the departments.”

How does your venture work logistically?
“When people call, I ask them if they can send their treat by messenger or taxi to a specific place within the hospital. They then give me the taxi or messenger’s phone number, and I instruct them how to reach the specified destination. At the same time, I coordinate with my contact person within the hospital so they can go meet the messenger. Every day we have something delivered to a different part of the hospital. I do all the organization and coordination from my home. I’m not working at the hotel now, and I’m not allowed to see my grandchildren, so this is a great way to keep myself busy.”
According to Appel, the volunteers are receiving help from a wide variety of sources, from large companies to individuals who are baking cakes at home.
“People are really happy that they’re able to help somehow. I’m constantly calling around to different departments to keep tabs on how everyone’s doing. I usually decide who to send food and treats to depending on how stressed out the staff sound on the phone. You can tell right away by the way they sound if they’re in need of a little pick-me-up treat. These surprises really give them motivation and keep them in good spirits.”
What kind of responses do you get from the medical teams?
“Sometimes they take selfies and send us thank you messages. It’s really nice to see what a difference these care packages make. That’s the fun part about what I’m doing. The doctors, nurses and other staff are working so hard these days. Some doctors haven’t been home for 10 days already.”
Chaya Shmeltz, from Mikhmanim, the director of the northern branch of Council for Beautiful Israel, is also on unpaid leave.
“I heard that the Haifa Mada [Magen David Adom] branch is working so hard to reach all of the people who’ve requested assistance, and that they’d love to know that we all appreciate their hard work,” Shmeltz explains.
“So, I began calling up people in my community and volunteers I know from my work with Beautiful Israel, and together we’ve been preparing treats for Mada volunteers. Some volunteers have baked cakes, while others have brought drinks, fruit and coffee. I encourage people to bring anything they think would put a smile on Mada volunteers’ faces. Last Friday, my husband and I filled up the trunk of our car and set out for the Mada station near us. They were so excited! Hearing them all exclaim ‘Wow!’ was really nice.”
Last Sunday, Shmeltz received a request from a nonprofit organization called Ruah Tova that is part of the Arison Group, which connects volunteers with various nonprofit groups. Ruah Tova is busy finding volunteers to help in areas affected by COVID-19. In this case, they connected Shmeltz with Domino’s Pizza, which donated lots of pizzas to Mada’s Haifa branch.
These days, hospitals unfortunately are suffering from a severe shortage of protective medical supplies.
“Medical personnel are working ‘naked’ and I get so frustrated when I hear details about this,” says Noam Weissman, a film editor who splits his time between Israel and China. Together with Ami Dror, an entrepreneur, he decided to do something to rectify the situation.
“I left Shanghai and flew back home as soon as the epidemic broke out there,” Weissman recalls. “After I got back to Israel, I wanted to buy some masks to protect myself. It never occurred to me that this would morph into a business venture. I’m a member in a networking group of Israelis who live in Shanghai. Last week, Ami, who’s also a member of the group, wrote that he’s looking for a way to import masks he purchases in Shanghai to Israel. I didn’t know him, but within two hours, we’d raised enough money – tens of thousands of dollars – to purchase masks for medical teams in Israeli hospitals. Ami’s daughters are fielding all of the dozens of incoming calls from various departments from hospitals all over Israel.”
At the time of writing this article, they’d received NIS 8,000 worth of contributions by Paybox to purchase N95 face masks for medical professionals.
“We are still in need of so much more,” continues Weissman. “We are not taking any commission on these purchases. All of the money we are collecting is being used to purchase masks and other protective gear, which we are sending directly to hospitals, and not to the Health Ministry. Ami has already delivered 500 masks, and tomorrow I should soon be receiving another shipment I ordered a week ago. Another shipment of 10,000 masks left Shanghai today for Israel. We’re hoping to import this amount every day. The cost of masks that are purchased directly from the manufacturer is NIS 15 per mask.”
Adi Carmon-Skoop, 44, from Sde Warburg, is the founder of Adopt-a-Doctor, which pairs up emergency medical professionals who are busy dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic along with volunteers. The volunteers offer to take care of all the doctors' and nurses’ personal needs for the immediate future, such as purchasing any protective gear they need, bringing groceries to their homes, walking their dogs, coordinating with a nonprofit babysitting service called Hibuk, and reaching out to ManageMed, run by Vered Zilberberg, which offers emotional support to medical professionals.
Carmon-Skoop, an innovative technology entrepreneur, came up with the idea for Adopt-a-Doctor after  hearing about the severe shortage of protective gear in hospitals.
“I couldn’t wrap my head around the absurdity that doctors in Israeli hospitals did not have the proper masks to protect themselves. I also heard many rumors that people who didn’t need them were hoarding masks at home,” explains Carmon-Skoop.
“At first, I thought I’d just connect these two groups, but then I realized the problem was far too advanced to be solved in this fashion, so I created a Facebook page, and in less than a week, we had over 3,000 members in the group. Every doctor who signs up gets matched up with a volunteer who lives near them. We’ve already paired up 350 doctors with volunteers, and another 650 volunteers are still waiting to adopt a doctor. We’ve reached out to all the hospitals in Israel to publicize our service.”

How does your service work?
“Our volunteers are the control center for the doctors and their families. The volunteers communicate with the doctors, who describe what their needs are, and then the volunteers take care of all the errands and personal needs they have for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Another difficulty that medical professionals are facing as they fight night and day to eliminate the virus, is what to do with their children now that all educational institutions have closed down. Lev Ehad, a nonprofit that was created in 2004, which helps people during national emergencies, has established three centers in Jerusalem.
“Three weeks ago, we created a small emergency headquarters, which was run by volunteers helping people who were in quarantine at home,” explains Adi Gindi, who is responsible for kindergartens for children of doctors in Jerusalem.
“A few days after we began operations, I received a call from Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus, asking for help organizing a playgroup for children in which either both parents are doctors, or who live with single-parents,” continues Gindi.
“I got to work on this straight away, and in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality and other educational entities, within two days we’d set up a program at the Frankel School on French Hill that could take in 40 children. But we still had so many more children of doctors who had nowhere to go, so we opened up programs next to Hadassah Ein Kerem and also Shaare Zedek hospitals.”
There are 24 people volunteering to run these makeshift childcare centers, some of whom are active in the Hitorerut Jerusalem Movement.
“The volunteers play with the children, of course, while following Health Ministry guidelines,” adds Gindi. “The doors open at 6 a.m. and stay open until 5 p.m. It’s so wonderful to hear how grateful the doctors are when they come to pick up their kids. There’s no way they could continue working without our program.”
Nadav Ben-Shabbat, 26, from the Dror Israel urban kibbutz in Beersheba, is also helping to organize childcare for doctors’ children. Ben-Shabbat, the youth activity coordinator at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh, was put on furlough because of the COVID-19 epidemic, so he decided to use his free time to volunteer with children of medical staff who work at Soroka-University Medical Center.
“Lots of volunteers have been coming here to help me run this day camp in Beersheba for four to10-year-olds,” explains Ben-Shabbat. “There are also volunteers from the Beersheba Municipality and the non-profit Kivunim. We play games and do art projects with them from 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day. I feel like this is the best way I can help people during these difficult times. It’s very satisfying and gives my life great meaning. It’s my way of expressing gratitude toward all of our doctors and nurses.”
Recently, a new website was created to help medical professionals maintain healthy mindfulness during these difficult times. Experienced therapists offer help and support to medical staff and their families by phone.
“I realized three weeks ago that there was a great need to help people who are in quarantine at home,” explains Michal Goral, a mindfulness instructor and the chair of Mindfulness Israel. “So I began helping them engage in mindfulness and meditation. Then I realized that we should be helping all the medical people who have been working night and day to help patients heal. Anat Klein from Rotary Israel helps me with funds and also coordinating with other volunteers.”
Goral says they publicized the service last Sunday, and they already have 40 volunteer therapists who are willing to help medical staff.
“One nurse who called me shared with me some of the hardships they’ve been experiencing lately, and how stressed the staff are. I’m so happy that we’ve been able to offer them some support to get through these hard times.”

Translated by Hannah Hochner.