Spring Awakening: A Thank You Lunch to South Shore University Hospital, Courtesy of the Island Mermaid and Friends

On April 1, a contingency across the bay from Fire Island joined forces with restaurateurs who got their start on the barrier beach to serve up a meal to frontline hospital staff workers in Bay Shore, as a gesture of appreciation for extraordinary service over a year of troubled waters.100 Years for 100 Workers, presented by The Island Mermaid restaurant, kicks off the coming summer of centennial events in Ocean Beach, while celebrating the incorporated village’s special relationship with Northwell Health’s South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, formerly Southside Hospital.“The short backstory is that last year I sold those adorable Red Wagon masks with the idea to host all the nurses at Mermaid,” explained proprietor Scott Hirsch. “But with COVID and logistics it didn’t make sense to drag them over who knows when. So I hired my good friends at Verde and Salt & Barrel to prepare and deliver all the food.”The red wagon face masks were quite the fashion statement last summer, ubiquitous with passengers riding the ferry, shoppers on the island, and other beach goers enjoying some fresh air in Ocean Beach and neighboring communities. Who knew they were slowly raising money towards a worthy cause?“Our frontline workers have certainly been our heroes over the past year,” said Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, who assisted in the food delivery. “Working around the clock, to literally save the lives or our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors. And their heroism continues, until this virus is  stopped. The generosity of these local restaurant owners is another fine example of the true sense of community that exists here in the Town of Islip.”Verde Kitchen is owned and operated by Anthony and Andrew Tartaglia, the entrepreneur brothers who also are the proprietors of Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar in downtown Bay Shore and Brightwaters Inn Village Pub and Grill; they learned their craft in the bar restaurants of downtown Ocean Beach. The Salt & Barrel Oyster and Cocktail Bar, also in downtown Bay Shore isowned by another sibling duo, Ryan and Morgan Flynn. The brother and sister team worked alongside the rest of their family in the multi-generational Flynn’s of Ocean Bay Park.“The event was a delight,” said Donna Moravick, RN, NP, executive director of South Shore University Hospital. “Our staff has been through the mill this year, and to be recognized this way is a reflection of our great partnership with Ocean Beach and Fire Island. Our hospital serves as backup to the Northwell clinic in Ocean Beach, while Chris and Laura Mercogliano of The Palms Hotel has always been there for us, especially over  last summer during this crisis.”Moravick further explained that the hospital used this luncheon as an opportunity to keep giving back long after the meal was enjoyed, by turning it into a friendly staff competition. Hospital floors vied for the 100 meals on St. Patrick’s Day by purchasing shamrock raffles. Proceeds from the raffle will go towards the construction of a newly planned fresh air break-time space known as Hero’s Plaza on hospital grounds that will benefit staff for years to come.What about the floors that lost out on all the good food? Moravick says not to worry.“Coastal, Salt & Barrel and the others have been here for us regularly through the worst of it – this was our fuel! Everyone is a hero who works here,” she added emphatically before getting reflective on the harder times during the pandemic. “Our worst day was on April 17th [2020], we had over 400 patients admitted to South Shore that were infected with COVID-19. It was a tsunami that tested all of us, and every day just took more away. Today, through continuity of care, we have better outcomes, more patients go home, and our staff is more cohesive than ever.”With spring comes optimism as more Americans become fully vaccinated in an effort to combat the dreaded virus, and look forward to a bright summer ahead. Moravick ever vigilant however calls this time a “breather,” aware that the COVID variants and rising infection numbers in parts of the country could signal more challenges ahead, but agrees there are also plenty of reasons to be hopeful.“As a registered nurse practitioner, my mantra is ‘think from the bedside,’” she said. “South Shore University Hospital is interconnected with the fibers of the community, and nothing can take thataway.”The Island Mermaid kicks off their season on Friday night, April 16, 2021.Those interested in supporting the Heroes Plaza at South Shore University Hospital, please contact Kaitlin B. Wojnar at 631.396.6783 or kbrownya@northwell.edu