This op-ed originally appeared in the Long Island Press.
Being a father is a full-time job and, for the last 18 years, it has been my only job. As a Navy veteran who raised two children in Huntington, I have loved being retired and spending time with my family.
This changed, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across our country, forcing us all indoors and halting the economy. From the start, I knew I needed to find a way to help support the people I love, but I broke my back years ago and put on a lot of weight, and then I was diagnosed with diabetes. So I knew a regular 9-to-5 wasn’t for me.
DoorDash gave me the flexibility I needed. I had first delivered food through DoorDash about two years ago when I was looking for new ways to fill my days. While I enjoyed making deliveries, I decided at the time that I enjoyed being retired even more.
But making deliveries in the pandemic gave me a sense of purpose again. I started dieting and working out, which helped me to lose 140 pounds. Getting working again really pushed me to get healthy and just made me feel great.
Every morning, I go out and pick up meals from local favorites like Mannino’s Bagel Café and Sweetwaters in Smithtown or Andersen’s Deli in Kings Park and deliver them to my fellow Long Islanders. From the restaurant owners to the kitchen staff, I love talking with the folks who work in the food industry. I find their passion for hospitality and feeding others to be inspiring. Restaurants are like a family to the staff who work there, to the regulars who have eaten there for years, and to the delivery drivers like me who pick up from them every day. Without restaurants and without food delivery, I wouldn’t be able to help support my family through this difficult time, and I wouldn’t feel so much better than I did a year ago.
Restaurants have always been there for us, and now they need our help.
Time and time again, we hear about the hurdles restaurants are facing in the pandemic. We all see it on TV and in the news, but to witness it up close as I have has been truly disheartening. I have watched as restaurant owners worry over an uncertain future, staff get cut after years at the same establishment and mom-and-pop shops close their doors for the last time. This situation is dire for an industry that feeds and employs millions of people — the core of our communities and the backbone of our society.
If you can, support our local restaurants in 2021, they need our help and there are so many ways to help. Buy your family members and loved ones a gift card to your favorite restaurant. Call your member of Congress and ask them to support the RESTAURANTS Act, which would provide $120 billion in relief to the restaurant industry. And order delivery so restaurants can stay afloat through the coldest days of the year and so folks like me can support our families. And most importantly, always tip.