A van carrying meals of pasta, salads and Girl Scout cookies rolled into a bay at Lancaster EMS's Columbia Avenue station around lunchtime Friday.

The food was a goodwill gesture, courtesy of Donegal and Ross insurance companies, and Diesel Works LLC, to show appreciation for workers at the county's largest EMS agency and small businesses as the nation copes with the coronavirus pandemic.

But the food would have to wait.

A call came in. The first responders the food was intended for hopped in an ambulance and headed out.

The call turned out not to be related to the pandemic; it was a medical emergency.

The meals would still be there, ready to be eaten, when the responders returned.

So Jason Bugg headed out with another food delivery, this one to the Lancaster EMS station on Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township.

There, he delivered about 20 meals to responders and station staff.

Lt. Andrew Gilger picked stuffed shells and a salad to eat for lunch.

Appreciation for the agency has been strong the past few days, he said. 

"We're much appreciative of it," he said. 

For instance, he said, Millersville University's art department donated about 40 N95 respirators. They are respirators designed for health care use provide the best breathing protection for working directly with COVID-19 patients. 

"They said you need them more than we do," he said. 

Lancaster EMS, the county's largest EMS provider, is doing OK for protective equipment for now, but is "being very cognizant of the supply," he said.

Bugg, a spokesman for Donegal Insurance Group, said the donated food was a way to help the community.

By the end of the day, Bugg would deliver about 90 meals to Lancaster EMS’s various locations.

It teamed up with Ross Insurance Agency, one of Donegal's biggest agents, to buy the pizza from Venice Pizza and Pasta in East Hempfield Township.

The insurers had pledged to spend about $2,000 on the gesture. Buying the food, instead of seeking a donation or break, was also a way to help a small business, many of which are struggling during this time of economic uncertainty.

The food bill came up a bit less than anticipated, so Donegal also ordered some protective gloves to donate to Lancaster EMS, Bugg said.

"And I gave the restaurant a nice tip," he said. 

Restaurant owner Maher Hattar appreciated the business.

"Business is struggling a lot," he said, estimating business is down about 40% to 50%. "Our whole eat-in business, we lost."

The restaurant doesn't have delivery and take out hasn't been making up for the loss of its eat in business, he said, noting he's been able to keep all of his employees working who want to work.

And it's important for local businesses to help one another, he said.

"Every little bit helps in this hard time," he said.


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