By Onz Chery

Event planner Debbie E. Louis fixing bride Stephanie’s hair. Photo credit: Tommy T. Photography

A battle shouldn’t be fought merely by the frontliners. It’s a concept that many are familiar with during the novel coronavirus pandemic and are acting upon, including A’ La Mode Events’ chief planner and consultant, Debbie E. Louis.

The 31-year-old provided meals to healthcare workers in New York City on a weekly basis during the most extreme period of the virus between April and May. She also made masks with Women in Faith Fellowship via a Zoom meeting on April 29. 

“This is the time when we actually have to put our boots on the ground and help people,” Louis said. “If you’re willing and able, this is when you get dirty and do the groundwork. Somebody’s life depends on it.”

As Louis was traveling to Mount Sinai Hospital on April 15 to donate food, she couldn’t help to think if she would see someone crying outside. The consultant lost someone herself there during the pandemic.

Louis collaborated with a Haitian-American catering company, Creative Minds Culinary Services, to provide meals to healthcare workers at Mount Sinai. Unfortunately, when they arrived at the hospital they were not allowed to enter. But just from listening to what was happening inside through the phone, Louis could easily feel the tension that was in there.

“Listening to the background — she [a Mount Sinai worker] put her phone down and told me to hold on — from the five minutes I was listening to everything happening, I caught anxiety,” she said. “I don’t know how they’re doing it.”

Debbie E. Louis posing for a picture in front of Northwell Health Orzac Center for Rehabilitation. Photo courtesy of Debbie Louis

Louis forced herself not to “break down” as she was on the phone with the Mount Sinai worker.

“The staff didn’t even get to take a picture. They were so hungry. Some of them haven’t taken a break. It was just a lot. It’s good to help out but it’s also heartbreaking to know that these people — like my sister’s a nurse — they’re giving their time and sacrificing their lives and certain times they don’t have the basic opportunities that we have while we’re at home which is to take a break to get a sip of water,” she said.

The members of Creative Minds Culinary Services shared how they felt about helping the essential workers alongside Louis in a statement they emailed to The Haitian Times.

“We’re just trying to do our part and show these essential workers that we appreciate their work,” Chef Charline Calixte said in a statement on behalf of Creative Minds Culinary Services. “It has been a great opportunity to partner with Debbie of A’ La Mode Events who shares our same passion and goals of helping people.   

“We’ve donated meals to hospitals, police precincts, grocery stores, homeless shelters as well as families that have members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are not able to go out to shop for groceries. We understand the sacrifice that all essential workers are making in this time and we just wanted to do something to let them know we appreciate them and that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.”

As the health workers’ workload was overflowing during the peak of the virus, Louis had to deal with the opposite. She hit a low-point as a consultant and an event planner.  

“It slowed down a lot,” Louis said. “I had lot of contracts that were pending with a few different companies and individuals. I wasn’t able to fulfill because they either shut down or the things that we needed to do required us to be active.”

Less time at work meant more time for people to focus on helping the frontliners. The Zoom meeting in which Women in Faith conducted the making of the masks had more than 35 participants. 

“I was excited because I know that we would be able to help people,” Louis said. “But then I just thought of how many people in New York actually needs this thing. Yes, we’ll make a difference, but I would love to do more to help the masses [of people in need].”

Women in Faith is a program made up of women who proved themselves to be leaders — formally or informally — and are committed to their faiths. The members are of different faiths. The main purpose of the program is to understand each other’s faiths. Louis has been with the group since January.

“I was very impressed by her thoughtfulness and her confidence,” Women in Faith’s director Melinda Zalma said about the first time she met Louis. “I could tell she was someone who could solve problems, take action to fix them. She’s a person when she sees a need or something missing, she’ll be able to help. And she won’t make it just about her, but she will work with others.”

Besides making masks and providing food to healthcare workers, another way Louis is assisting during the pandemic is by encouraging families that are affected and direct them to places with resources or personally provide them.

“It’s not just a ‘I’m sorry’ that helps,” the event planner said. 

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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