By Daniel Hurley
Around 11 a.m. on a recent morning, Andre Andrews drove up to Carvery Kitchen, a West Los Angeles deli-style restaurant, in a rented Chevy Tahoe to collect a to-go order. He needed the truck because his order was for 380 lunches.
Andrews exchanged pleasantries with the restaurant staff as they loaded packages into the Tahoe, and then he was on the road again to complete a mission: delivering food to medical workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Arriving around noon, Andrews put on a mask and gloves before he approached the hospital’s entrance and was greeted by its general manager. A sign near the entrance declared, “Thank You American Legion Post 283,” in reference to the organization Andrews represented. Soon he was observing the doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators inside the busy COVID unit. It felt as though he was back in the Navy — part of a team, part of the fight.
He felt a surge of joy and accomplishment from supporting the fatigued and hungry lifesavers. The feeling was short-lived, though. While unloading the food, he watched as an Armenian family learned that their loved one had passed away from the virus. One family member’s knees gave out, and the man nearly collapsed in mournful sorrow.
Andrews drove away in silence. “It’s a new type of battle we’re facing,” he recalled thinking, as the COVID unit “kind of felt like a war zone.” He was anxious. In a few hours he would return to the hospital with another delivery: 125 pizzas.
This time each section of the COVID unit sent a few representatives down to the van to collect their food. Each transaction was carefully orchestrated by the hospital manager: “Four pizzas for this group,” “seven pizzas for this section,” and so on. Andrews noticed that the level of protective gear indicated how close the different sections were to danger.
From his time in the Navy, to nonprofit work in Miami, and finally to the volunteer service he performs for the American Legion in Los Angeles, Andrews thrives on helping others. One of his recent initiatives is an equine therapy program for military veterans with PTSD.
At the end of a satisfying, yet solemn visit to Cedars-Sinai, he thought about what he would tell the leadership at his American Legion post when he briefed them on the deliveries. He also thought about going back into a COVID hotspot soon. Though he was fearful of getting that close to danger again, he was determined to do his part. UCLA Medical Center was next.