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Ashland Restaurant Finds Creative Way To Help Hospital Workers

Louie's of Ashland

Many hospital workers are working long shifts during the coronavirus pandemic, which often means they don’t have time to take care of themselves — like with a healthy meal. Some restaurants are pitching in, including Louie’s of Ashland.

The restaurant normally serves 600 to 800 customers every day around this time of year, when tourists are streaming into the Rogue Valley for plays, festivals and winery tours. But with the coronavirus pandemic and a statewide ban on dining in restaurants, Louie’s has had to transition to take-out and delivery only, and business is slow.

That’s why owner Melissa Jensen thought maybe they could use this downtime to start making food for hospital workers: people can pitch in $10 for what’s called a Gratitude Bowl, and with enough raised, Louies can make a massive delivery to the Asante Ashland Community Hospital.

“It’s a win for Asante, it’s a win for Louie’s,” Jensen says. “I think it’s a win for the community because it gives them a way to participate virtually.”

Louie’s recently made its first delivery of 100 Thai peanut bowls to Asante, and it has enough contributions to deliver another 300 bowls.

“We put it out on our Facebook page — the Gratitude Bowl idea — and we were just overwhelmed with their response, the generosity of our community — of Talent, Jacksonville, Medford, everybody,” Jensen says.

The idea helps busy hospital workers eat a fresh, healthy meal, and it helps provide a small income to Louie’s so it can keep its workers employed during this slow period.

Jensen says the coronavirus pandemic has devastated restaurants and small businesses in Ashland. While Louie’s was already providing free delivery before the pandemic, “it’s harder than it looks.”

“That’s why you might not see as many restaurants doing it as you might hope,” Jensen says. ‘It’s not sustainable for us to just do a delivery restaurant. This is a very short-term band-aid for us. We’re grateful to have it, believe me, it’s just very short-term.”

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.