April 14, 2020
By Joe Wojtas

New London — Tuesday evening, Carlos Amaral, who owns the Domino’s pizza franchise in New London, pulled his blue Subaru up to the emergency room entrance at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Wearing masks, he and his brother Nuno got out and placed a stack of free pizzas on a wheelchair, which a group of nurses then brought inside.

Every few days over the past three weeks, Amaral, Nuno and their other brother Paul, who own Domino’s franchises in Westerly, Groton and Mystic, have been doing the same thing at Westerly Hospital and Pequot Health Center in Groton.

“We just wanted to help out. They’re out there like we’re out there,” he said.

The Amaral brothers are among the many businesses and restaurants donating food and other items to the three medical facilities run by Yale New Haven Health, according to William Stanley, L+M’s vice president of development and community relations.

And according to Erica John, one of the ER nurses getting Tuesday’s pizza delivery, it's very much appreciated by her and her fellow health care workers.

“Everyone smiles when they walk in the break room each day and see the food that has arrived,” she said. “It's been awesome to see the support from the community.”

She said food also has come from the Recovery Room, College Pizza and countless others.

John said one reason the food has been so welcome is that when staff members are at home with their families, they have one less thing to worry about: what to pack for lunch or dinner. They know it will be at work for them.

“We really appreciate everything the community has done to support us,” she added.

Stanley listed a few of many food donations, including from Filomena’s restaurant of Waterford, the Cactus Jack Foundation providing 250 Easter ham dinners for area health care workers, a group that bought coffee for all three hospital shifts and a local Girl Scout troop that donated dozens of boxes of cookies that will be distributed on Wednesday. He said one man even cooked up barbeque dinners just off the hospital grounds that employees could then pick up.

In addition to food, he said there have been numerous donations of supplies, such as masks, gowns and gloves, as well as grants, including one for $200,000 from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
“We’ve always had great support from the community but this has just gone above and beyond that,” Stanley said. “You don’t really know how great the community is until you face your greatest challenge.”

He said the hospital is trying to keep track of all the donations, so it can properly thank everyone when the pandemic is over.

In addition, Stanley said the hospital is trying to organize a spread sheet for expected food donations so it can distribute them to employees on all three shifts. He said the donations are especially important because the hospital staff members are so busy caring for patients that they often have just a minute or so to “eat on the fly.”

Amaral said, like most businesses, he and his brothers have made changes due to the pandemic. He said all deliveries are contactless, stores are sanitized every hour and masks have been provided to all employees.

He said about 20 of the 170 employees at the four restaurants have decided to step back from working due to concerns about the virus.

The Groton location also has been delivering upward of 40 free pizzas a week to the Naval Submarine Base, where individual deliveries are not being allowed. Overall, he said sales for the brothers’ franchises are flat or even up compared to last year. He said he has heard that Domino’s franchises in small communities have been doing especially well during the pandemic because food delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub do not operate there.