Pandemic Relief: Alum Starts Summit Effort to Support Frontline Hospital Staff

Nurses in the Overlook Medical Center Emergency Department thank FLAG of Summit. (Courtesy of Atlantic Health)

Katie Curran Darcy ’92 learned to put others before herself while she was a student at Oak Knoll, in Summit, where service is a key component of the school’s mission. So, as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut down schools for her three teenagers, 10-year-old and most of her local Summit, NJ community, Katie sprang into action, searching for ways to help those around her.

After texting friends, many of whom are fellow Oak Knoll alums, she learned about a Facebook group called FLAG (Front-line Appreciation Group) out of Madison and Chatham, NJ. The group collects funds to purchase food from local area restaurants and then delivers it to their local area hospitals and health care workers.

Katie called the founder of FLAG Madison and Chatham, Liz Field Bernich, and left the conversation feeling inspired to start up her own group in Summit last week. In the span of 24 hours, FLAG of Summit was off and running and had raised more than $20,000.

“I just knew I’d have no trouble at all raising money or finding volunteers to help,” said Katie. “We were all hurting and wanted to do something.”

And help they did. Katie said on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, her FLAG of Summit group has raised $35,000, with more than 1,000 members, all looking to serve others on the front line of this pandemic.

FLAG of Summit primarily serves the doctors, nurses and other health care workers at Overlook Medical Center. Katie and her fellow volunteers use donated funds to purchase hot meals from Summit area restaurants. They then set up a delivery schedule for the meals to be dropped off to the hospital and their workers.

“Sometimes these nurses or doctors are assigned to the ICUs on 12 hour shifts and are unable to leave to go to the cafeteria until their long shifts end. We wanted to be able to deliver fresh, healthy meals to them,” Katie explained.

FLAG of Summit is currently ordering and delivering enough food for two meals a day in the morning and evening to Overlook Medical Center. Each FLAG delivery shift serves enough meals to feed approximately 100 health care workers. Katie estimates that the funds accumulated thus far should feed Overlook’s staff for about three weeks.

“The best way that people can support us is to donate financially so we can extend feeding the hospital workers for longer,” said Katie, whose own teenagers even helped organize and pick up meals.

In addition, Katie, who would like to see similar FLAG groups started all over the country, even created a document detailing how others can replicate her FLAG of Summit Facebook group.

“This Summit community is a larger version of Oak Knoll for me,” Katie said. “Focusing on helping others truly helped me cope with all of this uncertainty. You always feel good when you help others.”

picture of olivia gaston, oak knoll senior