Double Play: Giving Once and Helping Twice

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Pittsburgh Restaurants Covid-19 Coronavirus Meals

Local physician helping local restaurants and families in need

As the coronavirus pandemic approached the Pittsburgh region, it was clear to Dr. Mark Baratz that it would be catastrophic to those on the margins: the homeless, the food insecure and families who were just barely getting by. 

“At the same time, it was clear this would be devastating to Pittsburgh’s restaurant industry, the single largest employer in our community,” says Dr. Baratz, a Clinical Professor in the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship.

This inspired Dr. Baratz to create “Double Play,” an opportunity to give once and help twice. Through Double Play, he has been collecting monetary donations which are directed to restaurants that, in turn, prepare to-go meals for families in need. 

“We have done this in conjunction with three charitable organizations: Casa San Jose, Operation Safety Net, and 412 Food Rescue,” he notes. “We are currently working with seven local restaurants and have donated over 3,100 meals since March 19.” 

Meals have gone to the homeless and out-of-work families throughout Western Pennsylvania, including Cranberry, Wexford, Pittsburgh, Monroeville, the South Hills and Washington. 

The seven restaurants they are currently work with include:

“It has evolved organically,” says Dr. Baratz. “It started with Dancing Crab Thai. Lek Srijariya is a gifted chef who I knew would be devastated by having to shut down her business. She is community-minded and was excited to participate. Shelbin Santos creates Peruvian masterpieces at Chicken Latino in the Strip. She has been a long-time supporter of the Latinx community through the organization Casa San Jose. I thought it was appropriate that we support her.” 

Dr. Baratz was notified that a group of Syrian Muslim Immigrants were also in need. With the arrival of Ramadan, he learned that a prepared meal would be extremely helpful when they break fast.  

“I learned that Salem’s in the Strip district was very popular in the community and arranged for them to prepare Halal,” he says.

Dr. Robert Goitz introduced him to Wahlburgers and they provided 1,000 meals. The owner Joe Billhimer has been an amazing partner, according to Dr. Baratz. 

“He has gifted the community with high quality meals and has been instrumental in spreading the word and arranging fund raising,” he says. 

31 Bar and Grill in Bridgeville is owned by former Penguin Ken Wreggett. 

“Ken had worked hard to create a food/drink/music venue in the South Hills,” Dr. Baratz says. “He is all about helping in any way he can. Bubba’s in Southpointe is owned by Bubba Snider, once of the most generous individuals I’ve met. He has promoted the effort while having his restaurant prepare incredible dinners for families in Washington.”

Mexico Tacos is owned by Elena Alarcon. Dr. Baratz was introduced to her by Julie Cosentino, Director of Social Services at Miraculous Medal Church in the Meadowlands. 

“Elena makes a fish taco that will make you weep and has been an omnipresent supporter of her community,” he says.

Double Play is still collecting donations. Donations can be directed to Casasanjose.org. Scroll to the bottom of the website. Click the yellow Donate button. On the donation page type “Double Play” into the 2nd address line. 

Donations can also be sent to 412foodrescue.org.  Donors should put “double play” in the “memo” box.

Dr. Baratz is trying to keep this going until people are back to work and restaurants are back in business. 

“I thought we would be done by the beginning of May,” he says. “Now it is looking like June or July. To do that, we need to raise an additional $25,000.”

Mark Baratz, MD, is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship. He is Past-President of the American Association of Hand Surgery. Dr. Baratz has extensive experience with the care of pediatric upper extremity conditions. He is entering his 30th year in practice. He was recently awarded the “David P. Green Mentorship Award” by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the “He for She” award by the Ruth Jackson Orthopedic Society.