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Young attorneys raise money to buy food for hospital employees fighting COVID-19

May 7, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A pair of young attorneys helped form a group called “The Coalition” that was able to raise more than $10,000 that went to buy nearly 1,100 meals that were delivered to nine area hospitals.

Estefani Rodriguez and Peter Garcia are both active in local bar associations, including the Hispanic National Bar Association and Young Lawyers Division for Region II. Both are board members for the Dominican Bar Association.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City, it brought the legal community grinding to a halt. Rodriguez and Garcia brainstormed ideas for ways that they could help out, and after seeing some of their favorite local restaurants advertising that they were accepting donations to feed hospital workers, they started raising money.

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Estefani Rodriguez. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

“We heard how all of the local businesses, especially the minority-owned businesses, were struggling,” Rodriguez said. “Restaurants already operate with small margins, and it’s hard to imagine their survival with his shelter-in-place environment. We had also heard about frontline workers who were helping as many people as possible with little resources, working long hours with no time to eat.”

Figuring that this was the best way to help both local businesses while supporting hospital workers, Rodriguez and Garcia began reaching out to others for help. It started with a handful of local affinity bar associations, but quickly it became 20 organizations representing lawyers, judges, legal professionals and law school students in New York and New Jersey.

“We started calling the partnering organizations The Coalition,” Garcia said. “We knew and worked with some of these organizations, but the majority of the leaders never met or knew each other prior to this initiative. Despite that, everyone enthusiastically embraced the idea and demonstrated their confidence in us by partnering and committing funds for meal purchasing.

“We were beyond excited when we reached $10,000 in commitments in a matter of days,” Garcia continued.

Rodriguez and Garcia said they received a lot of help by the end. They said that Melinda Cox, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association of New Jersey, and Meredith Miller, president of the Network of Bar Leaders, were integral in the beginning for helping them reach out to various groups.

Laura De Los Rios, vice president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of New York, helped to contact restaurants and hospitals. Anta Cisse-Green, president-elect of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, helped throughout and helped create flyers that drew in support.

On April 29, nearly 1,100 doctors, nurses and technicians were treated to lunch thanks to the efforts of a pair of attorneys who raised money through local bar associations and law schools. Food from Barcha in Harlem was donated to the Montefiore Medical Center in Westchester.
Photo courtesy of Estefani Rodriguez and Peter Garcia

By the end, the Coalition included the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, the Association of Black Women Attorneys, the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Dominican Bar Association, the Foundation for Judicial Friends, the Garden State Bar Association, the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, the Hispanic National Bar Association, Region II and Region III, the Jewish Lawyers Guild, the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, the Latino Judges Association, MetroLALSA, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, the Mexican Bar Association of New York, the Network of Bar Leaders, the New Jersey Muslim Lawyer’s Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the New York Women’s Bar Association.

They raised money from 10 minority-owned restaurants in the area including Barcha Harlem, BK9 Restaurant and Bar, Cheryl’s Global Soul, Corrine’s Place, El Gordo, Kebab House, La Poncena Restaurant, Mimi Cheng’s Nimit Palace Indian Restaurant and Rincon Criollo.

Nearly 1,100 meals were delivered to hospitals including Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Cooper University Health Care in Camden, Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, Hackensack University Hospital, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Kings County Hospital, Montefiore Medical Center and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“This effort was the result of leadership in the legal profession coming together to support the local community during this difficult time,” Rodriguez said. “This was no easy feat, but it was worth it and felt quite rewarding.”

On April 29, nearly 1,100 doctors, nurses and technicians were treated to lunch thanks to the efforts of a pair of attorneys who raised money through local bar associations and law schools. Photo courtesy of Estefani Rodriguez and Peter Garcia

The meals were distributed for lunch on Wednesday, April 29. Rodriguez and Garcia said that they have received interest from other organizations since that day and have received an additional $3,000 that they plan on donating to assist other organizations in similar efforts.

Rodriguez, a Brooklyn resident, is a committee member for the Hispanic National Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division for Region II and a board member for the Dominican Bar Association. She also helps out in her community by volunteering for Hillsong NYC.

Garcia, chief of staff for Cisse-Green, is the treasurer for the HNBA Young Lawyers Division, a committee member for the Task Force on Puerto Rico at the New York City Bar Association, and a board member for the Dominican Bar Association.

“When Estefani, who interned in my chambers in the summer of 2014, mentioned that she and Peter Garcia, who I’ve known since he served as secretary of MetroLALSA in 2015, were forming a coalition of legal organizations with the dual purpose of helping minority-owned businesses and feeding first responders, I could not have been prouder of these two young attorneys and their desire and determination to do something to help our city during this crisis,” said Brooklyn judge Hon. Joanne Quinones. “I am frankly not surprised by their efforts; they stood out as leaders when they were in law school and are continuing to do so as new attorneys.”


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