Betterment through business connections

Local program helps donors support hospital workers and restaurants.

When Terry Murawski had an idea to help the health care workers and restaurant owners in Madison with one simple plan, he did what most business owners do. He picked up the phone and used his connections.

“I’m a serial networker,” he explains, describing his 30 years as executive director of the National W Club for UW Athletics. “I met a lot of people and was fortunate to make friendships and relationships that have extended to today.”

Murawski, now executive vice president of Thomas Bradley Insurance, leaned on those relationships to create Pay It Forward For Our Health Care Heroes, a program that connects donors, restaurants, and hospital workers and helps the latter two cope with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Donors are able to make donations to local restaurants that are turned into gift cards of $15 each for front-line health care workers at UW and Meriter hospitals. The amount was purposeful in nature, explains Murawski. “We’re not trying to supplement anybody’s income. The idea is just to show thanks and help restaurants struggling in this crisis.”

Thomas Bradley Insurance put up the first $1,000 donation that was divided among five restaurants, but the idea’s momentum really grew when Murawski used his connections to get the word out. “I don’t even want to pretend we’re unique. Everybody in some way, shape, or form would like to help those ‘health care heroes’ who are working on the front line.”

The more phone calls he made, the bigger the program became. Within days of his first conversation with Lee Pier, co-owner of the Nitty Gritty, he had donors, suppliers, and restaurant owners offering to help.

When Brewer Stouffer of Roman Candle was approached with the idea, he committed to doubling the gifts he received. Murawski said the gesture gave him goosebumps. “Here’s a guy whose business has been hard hit and his heart was really in it.”

The program is simple. The website and Facebook pages provide connection points between those who want to give and those who can use the donation. The donor pays the restaurant while directly indicating the gift is for “Health Care Heroes,” the restaurant generates the gift cards and then gets them to the hospital drop-off. The hospital then distributes the gifts to workers at the end of their shifts.

The program does not take money from donors. By working through the restaurants and having them make the drop-offs at the hospital, they go directly to people who need them. “They go right to the hospital, go right to the right person, and then they get distributed,” Murawski states.

The program began with Murawski and his connections finding the most direct path for donations of food to hospital workers. When hospital policies changed to disallow food deliveries, the choice was made to create a simple, easy-to-use channel for giving. Now that it’s created, Murawski is looking for ways to get the word out about the program. “One hundred percent of our goal now is just to let people know this opportunity is out there,” he states.

Murawski encourages restaurant owners to tell their suppliers and customers about the opportunity to give. He says the program is merely a way for people to channel their giving spirit toward people who could use the boost. If he can do that, he will consider the program a success. “It’s been an act of love, but I’ve enjoyed seeing it come together. Now I hope it gets some legs.”

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