Covenant HealthCare supporting local small businesses during coronavirus pandemic

SAGINAW (WJRT) (3/24/2020) - The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how strong Michiganders are and how they come together during a crisis to help each other in unexpected ways.

Richie Rich's downtown Saginaw deli got a big boost from Covenant HealthCare during the coronavirus pandemic.

A unique partnership is benefiting hospital workers and Saginaw County businesses.

Richie Rich's downtown deli in Saginaw opened last June and the small business was off to a good start.

"We were just getting over the strike with General Motors and starting getting the wheels going again," said owner Rich Kramer.

Then came the coronavirus health crisis that swept across the nation. That not only put the brakes on the restaurant's progress, but shut down much of the entire state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed a stay home order on Monday, banning all nonessential travel and closing all nonessential businesses. Restaurants like Richy Rich's are allowed to remain open, but business is down significantly.

"It's quite unnerving, because every day is a battle in small business and now we are handicapped with these restrictions," Kramer said.

But last week, Kramer received a phone call that brightened his business's darkest hour.

"They said, well we've got this program going we are going to help small business," Kramer said.

That call came from Covenant HealthCare with an idea from the CEO.

"He was trying to think of a way that we can support the local community, particularly those small business owners that need a boost during this difficult time and also have been very supportive of Covenant and they're our people too," said Covenant HealthCare Foundation Director Carroll Cottrell.

Kramer couldn't believe it.

"It basically added up to having an extra day in the week, so that really plugs a big hole," he said.

The hospital will feed 200 to 300 Covenant employees every day, using up to three different local restaurants each day.

"When we started reaching out to the restaurants last week, it was very difficult, only from the standpoint of the restaurant owners were so grateful, they would get so emotional on the phone and we were trying to hold it together and not get emotional, because we are so proud of Covenant for what they are doing to help them keep going," Cottrell said.