Locals Raise Money for Supplies and Support for Patients and Staff at NYC Hospital; Another Way to Help

Sick and alone, patients need distraction.

By Audrey Campbell

The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well on the Upper West Side as local businesses and neighbors find creative ways to support and encourage each other amid the Covid-19 outbreak. One of them is Mike Matthews, a social media marketer who started his own consultancy, The Mobile Culture, nine years ago. Mike recently began a campaign on Instagram to gather donations, gifts, and supplies for hospitalized patients suffering from the virus as well as the healthcare staff working tirelessly to support them.

Mike has been working on this project with his friend Amy, a nursing staff administrator at a major NYC hospital (who asked that we only share her first name). The Rag caught up with Mike and Amy, both in their early 40s, as they drove around together courtesy of a free one-month car rental, currently being offered by Hertz to all healthcare professionals. In recent weeks, Amy has observed and lived through the chaos and compassion, stress and strength surrounding healthcare professionals as they work doggedly to fight the rapid spread of Covid-19.

Taking the gifts to the hospital.

As countless patients suffering from the virus are left alone in quarantine without hope of visits from family or friends, they have begun to ask nurses for activities, puzzles and books — anything to keep their minds occupied. “Our job right now is really emotional support,” Amy said. “The huge majority of our patients are elderly, so they’re not really on their phones.” Instead, items like adult coloring books, crosswords, magazines, and puzzles are in great demand.

After hearing Amy speak about the patients’ requests, Mike began his campaign to raise money and items for them. (All of the items must be in brand-new condition in order to ensure safety and cleanliness for hospital workers and patients.) In no time, he had already received multiple messages and Venmo transactions from community members asking him to purchase games and books on their behalf.

“Two people reached out after the West Side Rag post on Instagram and together they donated $125,” Mike recalled. “They don’t even know me. I was very impressed that they would do that.”

Mike Mathews at your service.

This wasn’t the first act of selfless volunteerism from Mike. Earlier in the week, he tapped into his inner artist to create a flyer for those in his building who might need help with grocery shopping and picking up medications, as well as those who may be feeling lonely and in need of someone to speak with. Mike’s penchant for helping others has been constant over the years. He frequently volunteers at the Broadway Presbyterian Church Community Table where the church provides homeless local residents a multi-course, restaurant-style dinner and volunteers serve as the waitstaff. 

In addition to the puzzles and games, Amy noted that two crucial “big ticket” items hospital staff would appreciate are holistic nurse visits and iPads for patients. Holistic nurses will visit a hospital and offer a variety of services to staff members including guided meditation, hand massages, and reiki. “Holistic nurses offer things that are comforting because right now the work is so emotionally draining for the staff,” Amy said. “iPads allow hospital staff to communicate with patients virtually and conserve PPE (personal protective equipment) because you have to put on a gown and mask every time you go in to see a patient. It’s also very comforting to the patients when they have the opportunity to see their family on FaceTime.”

For those interested in working with Mike and Amy to make a donation, you can contact Mike directly at michaelTmatthews@gmail.com or send him a Venmo transaction at Mike-Matthews. Donations toward holistic nursing visits (approximately $300 per day) for healthcare staff can be made with a note that the donor would like their gift allocated toward that purpose.

In recent weeks, New Yorkers have taken to applauding local heroes from their windows and balconies in a gesture of socially-distant praise for the emergency personnel who are working to support victims of the Covid-19 outbreak. Asked about the reaction of healthcare workers to the #clapbecausewecare online campaign, Amy said, “The outpouring of love from the community has been huge, and sharing the clapping videos is so important. You feel proud of what you’re doing and it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, and that boost to go another day.”

Once things have settled down, Mike recommended that New York City hold a ticker-tape parade (like this one celebrating the end of World War II in New York) to recognize all the healthcare and emergency personnel who continue to fight in the face of overwhelming challenges. Your friends at The Rag support this idea wholeheartedly!

NEWS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. Betty says:

      would Mike mind sharing his photo? I went to Venmo to contribute and there are a million Mike Matthews (albeit with numbers after the name). I’d hate to have it go to the wrong Mike! thanks for this post and all the work you do keeping us informed.

    2. lynn says:

      You could email him to ask for that info. Mentioned above: you can contact Mike directly at michaelTmatthews@gmail.com or send him a Venmo transaction at Mike-Matthews