Samaras salutes COVID testers with free hot food to frontline health staff

Omar Nemer
Omar Nemer

The crew from Samara's Restaurant Woonona were met by some very appreciative nurses on Wednesday when they dropped off hot meals to health staff on the frontline at Wollongong COVID testing clinic.

When Omar Nemer heard about how hard they were working after two cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wollongong, he contacted the clinic and asked if he could deliver them some freshly cooked hot food.

"They said that would be awesome. I called them around 1.30 and we ended up having the food there around 3.30," Mr Nemer said.

"We donated food for about 50 people to make sure there was enough to go around because I knew there would be people there until late.

"Things like this really boost the morale of those workers and give them something to look forward to."

RFS had the Samaras treatment, too

Wednesday was not the first time Samaras has led from the front.

During the bushfires last summer Mr Nemer decided to help Rural Fire Service volunteers on the front line.

"We took the food truck down and fed 300 firefighters at Albion Park," he said.

"These people donate their time and risk their lives for us."

The Nemer family was quick to respond again during the COVID-19 lockdown in April by taking the food truck to pop-up takeaway locations and using it as a drive-through eatery when restaurants were forced to close.

"We wanted to ensure people could still get good quality food," Mr Nemer said.

"We ended up doing it seven days a week all across the Illawarra and down the South Coast. The community absolutely loved it."

It's all about the good vibes

Samaras did one last drive-through at Dapto Showground only last week to say thank you to the community for supporting it during 2020.

Many people came up to Mr Nemer to tell him how the drive-through food vans were the highlight of COVID and the thing that kept them going.

"One thing I have realised about doing things like this is it gives such a good vibe to people in the community," he said.

"It also shows the people in the front line they are being appreciated. It gives everyone a massive boost. And I like to encourage other businesses to do the same."

Other businesses jumped aboard, too

Mr Nemer said their overwhelmingly positive response showed just how strong the Illawarra community was and how it was a place "where we all look after each other".

"A lot of people want to get involved which is why a lot of businesses always jump on it straight away," he said.

Amigos, Figtree Gourmet Kitchen, Bun Me Bar and PFD Food Services Foods are among other businesses who quickly jumped on board on Wednesday and distributed food and drink to COVID testing clinics across the Illawarra.

"It is amazing to see such response," Mr Nemer said.

PFD Food Services manager Craig Ross said as a supplier for NSW Health he received a call telling him how busy Wollongong and Shellharbour clinics were on Wednesday so his team at Fairy Meadow responded with the delivery of water bottles and biscuits.

On Thursday afternoon Mr Nemer decided to send some hot Samaras food to another COVID testing clinic at Figtree.

"They don't all get the chance to eat at one time so they reheat the food for one person at a time," he said.