When officials announced the city’s bars and restaurants would need to shift solely to filling takeout orders amid the coronavirus crisis, Vito Randazzo knew he needed a plan.
Randazzo, the owner of Graziellas restaurant in Brooklyn, and a friend started a campaign that would help them stay afloat amid the pandemic and benefit the area’s healthcare professionals and first responders.
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“Let’s do an “Operation Pizza” where we send out pizzas to hospitals. We had a lot of phone calls coming in through Instagram and different types of media and they said, oh we want to order a pizza. So we ordered the pizzas for them,” said Randazzo.
Randazzo was thrilled with the response, which has grown exponentially in the last few weeks after Jeffrey Wright, the star of HBO’s Westworld, got involved.
A Brooklynite himself, Wright wanted to help the businesses he’s grown to love during his time in the neighborhood.
“I heard he was asking customers to call in on behalf of Brooklyn hospital staff and the hospital is of course here in our neighborhood and so when I caught wind of that I reached out to Vito,” Wright said.
Wright started a GoFundMe page and the initiative now known as “Brooklyn for life”.
Already an official non-profit the charity has now raised almost $500,000 in 5 weeks.
About half of that was raised on GoFundMe and the other half came from direct donations to the charity.
Wright tapped some of his famous friends to help get the word out.
He said his former co-star, Daniel Craig, gave him the idea to make a video about the campaign.
Some of the celebrities included in the video have ties to the borough.
“They are either current residents, past residents or born here. So, when people understood what we were doing and the way we wanted to frame the message, they came on board willingly,” said Wright.
The publicity caught the attention of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams who is now also part of the campaign.
“We coordinated our efforts to make sure the restaurants who were suffering were able to connect with his Brooklyn for life campaign and serve food to first responders,” said Adams.
The campaign now splits its financial resources between 40 different vendors.
Those vendors now feed three meals a day to hospital staff, EMT’s and all the NYPD precincts in Brooklyn.
They’ll soon be able to do more as “Brooklyn for Life” secured its first corporate partner on Thursday.
Randazzo Told NY1 that AT&T is contributing another $250,000 to the cause.