Keeping essential workers fed


ROCHELLE – With help from community donations, two local businesses have set up a program to make sure essential workers are fed as they continue to work through the stay-at-home order. 

Samantha Barkus of Sunshine Bakery and Tricia Herrera of Ralfie’s BBQ, both located in Rochelle, have set up an online meal donation program. People go online, purchase a meal option and then the business delivers the meals to local workers. The meals are donated to any worker who is considered essential and continues to work through this pandemic

“We have created an online website that has a couple of different options to purchase, such as lunches, cookies or pastries,” said Barkus. “The link is on the bakery page and I know the city has helped share it, as well as Ralfie’s and the chamber of commerce.” 

Ralfie’s BBQ and Sunshine Bakery began donating meals on March 22 and will continue to do so as long as people continue to donate. Anybody who would like to donate a meal can do so online, through a link on Sunshine Bakery, Ralfie’s BBQ and the City of Rochelle’s Facebook pages. People have multiple options to choose from when donating. 

“So far, we have taken meals to the Rochelle Veterinary Hospital, Rochelle Community Hospital, Rochelle Street Department and a Rock River Valley Blood Drive,” said Barkus. “We have taken meals to Stock & Field, Shell gas station, Amboy Grocery store, Americold, ALDI, Ace Hardware and other local business that remain open.”

When the meals are purchased by an individual, they are donated to workers within a day or two, depending on the amount of donations and the workers schedule. When people hear the term “essential workers,” many of them first think of police officers, firefighters, EMTs and hospital workers. 

But many people forget that gas station employees, grocery store workers, factory workers and many other professions are also considered essential. While all essential workers are important during these tough times, this program focuses on feeding even the ones that may not come to mind first. 

“Tricia and I came up with the idea to be able to give back to everybody who is still working,” said Barkus. “It is also a positive way for each person to do something small, that will make a big difference together.”