How a Milwaukee mom turned misfortunate into new beginnings

For Susannah Lago, a layoff from her corporate job and personal grief hit hard all at once. But it caused her to pause and take inventory of what’s most important in her life, and led her to become an innovative entrepreneur and creating a network to help other area moms do the same

Mark Bush: Living and working to be purposeful

Mark Bush’s childhood started with tragedy. Orphaned at age 3, his life could have headed in the wrong direction early on. But a positive new home, new mindset, and unmatched work ethic led him to a life of military service and entrepreneurship with a common purpose: Live every day to be purposeful.

Caregivers rise to the occasion when needed most

The rapid spread of COVID-19 quickly put pressure on nursing homes across the country to make sure they kept clients safe. For caregivers with At Home Nursing in California, it was no issue. They were ready to go above and beyond.

“We help our clients live a better life at home. We put caregivers in the home with our clients so that they get their meals, get their clothing on, get their laundry done, address any medical concerns and make sure they have companionship. Used to be that we would help them run errands, get them out and make sure they had social activities, making sure they were connecting with family and their community in a meaningful way. That has changed a lot.

Lauren Reynolds & patient

“It’s a huge responsibility because our caregivers are the only ones coming to the home. So that means that’s the only way our clients can get the virus. I knew that if we can keep our caregivers safe it would be really easy to keep our clients safe. We talked to our caregivers and told them they need to stay home when they are not at work. ‘We are counting on you to follow these rules. You can’t visit your friends. You can’t visit your parents. You have to be at home, go to work and come back.’ And we have really had no problems with that.

“At first was a lot of fear from my clients. It was ‘Lauren, what are you doing? Do you have enough hand sanitizer? Is this person safe to come to my house?’ Once we calmed the fears, they felt grateful and appreciative and lucky. Others were resistant to staying home saying things like, ‘I want to have lunch at the place I go every Wednesday!’ They had to be convinced by their caregiver and family that this is very real, they are very high risk and they have to stay home.

“My daily duty is to find supplies. We actually practiced for this. In 2018 the county of San Diego had a big pandemic practice that we participated in. We had ordered supplies based on that pandemic practice. We are not at a shortage right now, but our routine supplies that we use all the time were down to our last two boxes of gloves and face masks. But my employees still needed them, just as they have needed them for the past 10 years.

“I also think a major change will be that everybody involved in healthcare will never let this happen again. First time it happens, nobody could have expected it. But there is no excuse not to be prepared the second time. I think we’ll have better supply chains, better government involvement and stockpiling, so that you have a local supply when you need it.

“I love what I do, and I work with the kindest most dedicated people in the world. They could make a lot more money doing a lot of other things. They do this because they are caring people. I haven’t had anybody not willing to continue their cases, not willing to provide care for their clients. They are homecare heroes.” 

Lauren Reynolds, At Home Nursing Care-San Diego/Los Angeles/Orange County, CA

Catering company steps up in grocery shortage

Relish Catering Kitchen is used to providing food for large events and parties – something the COVID-19 crisis wiped away for now. But that didn’t mean the company was going to quit on its customers. Instead, they’re changing the business model to deliver essentials in the dire situation.

“Once shelter in place hit, all of our catering business kind of went away.

“We had a lot of people postpone and a lot of events that straight up had to cancel. It just wiped out all of our sales. All of us are working from home; there isn’t much to cater to people… But I started talking to my friends on Zoom calls and they were saying they can’t get chicken, can’t get beans, can’t get rice. I was blown away.

“With my experience in delivery, I figured why not create a grocery delivery service and meet the needs of people who can’t get these things in stores or don’t want to leave their house or can’t. I’ve tried to be flexible to meet the needs of my customers.

“It feels great. It really helps to motivate me to keep going. I got an email from a guy that was so thankful to get this stuff because he can’t leave his house. It almost made me tear up. We got a letter of commendation from our Congressman thanking us. I’m trying to save my business, but at the same time providing basic needs for people. It’s part of the reason I did it in the first place.  

“I’m trying to see what I can do to help. I think that’s what everyone is trying to do right now.”

John Eggert
Owner, Relish Catering Kitchen

Order from Relish Catering Kitchen here. Or, donate to their GoFundMe.

A non-profit fights for foster kids amid crisis

Friends of San Pasqual Academy has always gone the extra mile to provide resources for foster children in need. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, that didn’t change. It grew.

“Friends of San Pasqual Academy is a 501c3 nonprofit that provides all the ‘extras’ that a child needs to have a normal high school experience and provides for the care and welfare of the student. Some kids come to us with just the clothes on their backs. The needs of these students are huge. 

“San Pasqual Academy is unique. It is both home and school for 80 foster teens. These kids have overcome abuse, neglect and the trauma of being removed from their home by Child Protective Services of San Diego County, through no fault of their own. The school is the first of its kind.

“Now, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the school has been closed to all non-essential staff and any visitors. Since it is a county-ordered shut down, the teachers are gone. The staff that is still here is responsible for making sure that 80 teenagers stay safe, healthy and entertained. 

“They have individual cottages, that each has its own kitchen. That’s where the kids stay with their house parents and San Pasqual Academy day staff.  The kids are social distancing, trying to keep busy. 

“We just bought board games, Play Stations, any type of activity products to keep them busy.  There is a lot of outdoor space on campus, so they are getting outside, going in groups of less than 10 to do outdoor activities like scavenger hunts and hiking. The staff is encouraging reading and academic activities.

“Our organization is also supporting 70 alumni kids who are in college or trade school. Some of them have come back ‘home’ and are staying at the transitional houses.  They are under strict guidelines and they just can’t come and go and be circulating.  We’ve also been checking in with our other alumni kids, making sure they have a place to stay, either with a roommate or friends.

“This year we have 18 graduating seniors. They are all going to college or trade school, so we support them with application fees, the school supplies, books, housing expenses and more. And we make sure that they have dorm supplies, sheets, pillows towels Irons laundry baskets full of cleaning supplies. We have a group that makes them homemade quilts to put on their dorm bed. We coordinate with other nonprofit groups that donate these items. I doubt people have been gathering to put these items together or to make quilts.  It is uncertain right now what our graduates are going to be receiving.  We are going to need funds to purchase those items.

“We have been taking care of our kids for 20 years and we want to continue taking care, to provide support and show them that the community still cares about them. We always say, ‘what you do for your kids, we do for ours.’ We want them to know that they are a priority in our lives, and they have not been forgotten.”

Joan Scott-President, Friends of San Pasqual Academy

IL freight company balances risks, responsibilities while navigating COVID-19

Businesses and community leaders have had to adapt the best they can during the COVID-19 crisis. Here is one story – of JA Frate in Crystal Lake, Illinois – that is facing safety risks while trying to remain committed to their critically important job. Story told by JA Frate President, Jill Dinsmore.

“Everyone who can work from home is working from home. Except my drivers, they’re on the front lines of this. They are the ones I worry about. 

“Our drivers are the ones that are at risk the most, and the most nervous.  The looks on their faces are looks of fear. They won’t say it out loud but you can see how worried they are.  They are worried about being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to a loved one.

“Our drivers are the ones that are at risk the most, and the most nervous.  The looks on their faces are looks of fear. They won’t say it out loud but you can see how worried they are.”
– Jill Dinsmore, President, JA Frate

“Most of our drivers have 10 to 20 stops a day that they deliver freight to.  Different customers in different places are not allowing them on their premises and are already treating them as if they are infected. They have to sign a document certifying that they don’t have a fever or a cough, or they haven’t been exposed. As a business owner, I understand they are trying to protect their team.

“The conditions that we have been finding most challenging were down at the cargo terminals by O’Hare. After 9/11 so many TSA regulations were changed so you had to have a separation between known cargo and unknown cargo, and anyone who was not an employee of the cargo facility or TSA certified had to be kept separate from the cargo. The way many of these companies did that was to put up chain link fenced areas. The drivers have to wait in the fenced area for their cargo to be loaded or dropped off. The chain-linked areas are not very big, usually 4 by 4ft. or 6 by 6ft, and many times there are 10 drivers checking in and waiting to be told that their freight is ready. In the past, it was not a big deal. Now that we have social distancing going on, you have quite a few people in a very small space.

“The biggest problem we have been facing is that the TSA regulations were conflicting with the new social distancing norms.

“In response to our driver’s concerns, we have equipped them with N95 masks and hand sanitizer.  And I started making calls. Specifically, to every one of the business owners that I know at the airport cargo facilities to try to get them to change their practice.

“A lot of things have happened in this last week. It’s a very fluid changing situation we have never dealt with this before. Our drivers are feeling that we are keeping them as safe as we can. They have talked to other drivers at other carriers who are very frustrated, very upset, they’re not feeling like their companies are taking care of them. I feel good that we are staying in communication, our guys know what’s going on and we are providing the tools they need to stay safe.”

New app keeps food trucks afloat amid COVID-19

NOMAD, a food truck ordering app, is using their technology to help these small businesses survive while Americans are sheltering in place.

“We thought ‘it’d be great if there was an app where you could find out where food trucks are, order through the app, pay through the app, and get a push notification when the food is ready so you can go down and pick it up.’ That’d be so great.

“We raised some money. We started out with marketing and building the app in New Orleans. We planned the soft launch for this weekend in Houston, but then coronavirus happened so this is not going to happen this weekend. It’ll happen in May. But we’ve used this time to help food trucks stay afloat.

“Obviously their main business is office buildings, bars, any sort of large gathering of people. They’re having big problems. We’ve eliminated all of our fees for food trucks… now we have food trucks reaching out to us because we’ve done a lot of social media advertising about waiving our fees. 

“We just want to help these small businesses – these family-owned businesses, such as we are – just to make it… Our goal is to scale the app and take it nationwide and offer it to as many people as possible.”

Walter Gugenberger, NOMAD Food Truck App

Ray McCullough: Becoming a Helping Hand

Ray McCullough didn’t grow up in the best environment and never saw a bright future for himself. But after hitting rock bottom and spending time in prison, he had a wake-up call. He realized if he just committed himself to work hard and change his ways, he could find a way to help the world around him. And entrepreneurship provided that path.

Wax On Wax Off: How Mark Shaw paved his own way

Mark Shaw wasn’t comfortable with the possibility he might be somebody else’s employee for life. So he took a simple idea – running a car wash – and with his persistence and hard work turned it into a thriving business of his own.