Offering Nourishing Comfort in Long Island

Northeast  |  April 17, 2020
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers are providing love and care in their communities by distributing baked goods. Photo / Daphne Liu

Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Business was once booming at TOUS les JOURS, a bakery and café specializing in French-Asian inspired baked goods, located on the busiest street in Flushing, a neighborhood in New York City’s borough of Queens. 

But today, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world, the bakery, along with other nonessential businesses, is closed. Still, there is some activity going on in the kitchen…

In the kitchen of the bakery and café franchise they own, Tzu Chi volunteers Richard Tan and Jessica Lim pack 440 loaves of bread for donation. Photo / Daphne Liu

Giving Amid the Pandemic

This TOUS les JOURS franchise, once filled with customers, closed to the public three weeks ago, following NYC’s stay-at-home order, which the city implemented in March. Its owners, Richard Tan, and Jessica Lim, kept the business open till the very last minute, continuing to pay staff salaries and the rent. But by now the shop’s revenue has decreased by 50%.

And yet, one can hear sounds coming from the kitchen. There, Richard and Jessica, who also happen to be Tzu Chi volunteers, are busy organizing and packing baked goods. Despite the detrimental impact of the pandemic on their income, the couple has smiles on their faces. That’s because they’re preparing 440 exquisite loaves of specialty bread, imported from the head office of TOUS les JOURS in South Korea, for donation. 

And, through thick and thin, Richard has remained thankful and optimistic:

By nature, businesses fluctuate up and down, and I’m grateful that I’m still capable of giving.”

Jessica Lim labels and places a Jing Si Aphorism blessing card on each box of bread for donation. Photo / Daphne Liu

The couple is immensely grateful that they can help others at a time when so many people are struggling. Tomorrow, they’ll distribute bread to frontline healthcare workers, first-respondents, and the elderly residents of a seniors center. While focused on the day ahead, Richard and Jessica almost forget that they’re also affected by the pandemic.

Love In Action

It was almost noon on April 8, with the afternoon sun of an early spring warming the empty streets. One by one, Tzu Chi Long Island volunteers convened to help Richard and Jessica complete a unique mission of love, that of distributing gifts of bread in the Long Island area. 

Blessing charms are attached to the boxes of bread, adding a meaningful souvenir to the donation. Photo / Daphne Liu

Each volunteer wearing a mask and gloves, they were finally ready to set out, bringing 440 loaves of specialty bread packed into 20 boxes, each affixed with a Tzu Chi label, and an attached blessing charm and Jing Si Aphorism bookmark as additional gifts. 

Maintaining a safe social distance, the team divided to go in separate ways, heading to three different distribution locations.

Before departing to distribute the bread, the volunteers cheer Tzu Chi’s cherished motto, “Gratitude, Respect, and Love,” setting the tone for their journey. Photo / Daphne Liu

Supporting a Nursing Home’s Mission of Care

Richard and Jessica, along with senior volunteers Lillion Kuo and Sherry Lee, set out for A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility. Tzu Chi volunteers in Long Island have been visiting and caring for elders at this center for 25 years. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many were deeply concerned, and with reason.

When the epidemic happened, I called and learned that some of the elders we cared for passed away because of the virus infection, and I felt sad for a long time.

The Tzu Chi Long Island volunteers agreed that bringing some of the bread to the extended care facility and distributing it among healthcare staff and residents would be of great benefit and cheer, and they were thrilled to be acting on this initiative.

At a time like this, love must be given to these family members."

Representing A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility, Theresa Lopes-Boehm (second right) accepts the bread brought by Lillion Kuo (third left) and other Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo / Daphne Liu

Theresa Lopes-Boehm, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteer Services, and her colleagues were waiting outside the care facility even before Tzu Chi volunteers arrived. To help maintain social distance and keep everyone safe, the center had also prepared two carts to receive the 11 boxes of bread from Tzu Chi.  

Richard briefly described the contents of the boxes but also invited Teresa to open a particular one. where she found packages of colorful macarons that the volunteers had added as a special gift to boost everyone’s spirit during the pandemic.

Irene Khokhlova, a facility staff member, is happy to discover the surprise of macarons added by Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo / Daphne Liu

Thank you [Tzu Chi] for your love and care for the past 25 years, bringing happiness to the elders. Especially, at such a difficult time, you still thought of us. This sincerity and affection is much appreciated.

Delivering Cheery Good Wishes from Children

Even before the pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers are always concerned about the emotional wellbeing of residents, since many suffer from loneliness and also have limited mobility. Pilien sadly shared that, “The elders can’t leave their room even if they want to get a glass of water or a cup of coffee. How can they survive this type of loneliness?” 

Although they couldn’t come to visit in person, during their stay-at-home study time, students from Tzu Chi Long Island Chinese School made colorful drawings for the seniors, which volunteers delivered along with the bread.

A student from Tzu Chi Long Island Chinese School draws a card for the elders at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility. Photo / Courtesy of Jungwei Hsieh
A Tzu Chi Long Island Chinese School student makes greeting cards at home for the isolated seniors at the care center. Photo / Courtesy of Sharon Wong

Bringing Hearty Comfort to Frontline Heroes

While one team was at the extended care center, other groups of Tzu Chi volunteers headed towards police stations located near Tzu Chi’s Long Island office. 

A team of two, Joe Chang and Ken Tan, delivered a box of bread to the Nassau County Police Department, Third Precinct, located in Williston Park. 

Volunteer Joe Chang delivers a box of specialty bread for officers on duty at a police station in Williston Park. Photo / Ken Tan

Another team of volunteers, Huichen Wu and Peter Lin, delivered a box of bread and macarons to the Oyster Bay Cove Police Department, which is near Tzu Chi Academy in Long Island. 

The police officers were delighted to receive the gifts from Tzu Chi. And, Huichen Wu was happy to deliver them, “The police officers on duty during the pandemic outbreak are working hard and at risk of getting infected. They have no time to prepare their meals. We prepared bakery goods for them so they won’t go hungry for a while.”

There’s not much we can do to help, but we can certainly give a little love and let them know that we’re here to help if they need anything.

Tzu Chi volunteer Huichen Lin has been friends with officers from the Oyster Bay Cove Police Department for years. She delivers a box of bread to show appreciation for their hard work. Photo / Peter Lin

The third and farthest delivery was to Stony Brook University Hospital on the East End of Long Island, a thirty-minute drive away.

Healthcare workers at every hospital are overextended during the pandemic, leaving them little time to eat or rest. The bread delivered by Tzu Chi volunteers will help keep hunger at bay and soothe weary spirits.

Tzu Chi volunteers deliver bread to Stony Brook University Hospital, an expression of love and care for frontline healthcare workers. Photo / Sheena Chen

Tzu Chi’s distribution of loaves of bread in the Long Island area reached seniors, police officers, and healthcare workers, bringing some hearty comfort even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten from all sides. All the volunteers involved felt heartened by the response of those who received the gifts, and have already started planning their next mission of love and care. 

Let’s do our part to help flatten the curve, by giving our love and supporting heartwarming activities such as these.

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