Jessica Boiardi grew up in Queens and the borough never left her heart. No time has that been more clear than during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
After graduating with a Communications degree from St. Francis College in 2005, Jessica went on to forge a successful career in advertising sales for big media companies. For the past two years, Jessica has worked at Complex Networks, most recently serving as the Senior Director of Revenue Operations, a dream job having been an avid reader of Complex magazine since her undergraduate days. She now oversees a team of about 10 people and helps guide the company's advertising operations increasingly into the social media realm.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic – and the impact on her beloved home borough – motivated her take action in much the way she does in the workplace. What started as a very modest project to support medical staff at a local public hospital turned into a major fundraising initiative pulling in donations from around the country.
Jessica recently reflected on the campaign she spearheaded over the past few weeks.
You recently created a campaign to support frontline healthcare workers during the COVID pandemic. How did that come about?
I was in bed [one night], and The New York Times published an article and released a video of a doctor from Elmhurst Hospital [in Queens] focused on COVID. [note: watch the video, 'People Are Dying': 72 Hours Inside a N.Y.C. Hospital Battling Coronavirus].
I watched it. And then I watched it again. I made my husband watch it. I'm not an emotional person, but I just cried. I didn't know how bad it was getting in Queens until that moment.
I woke up the next morning still thinking about it. My husband's best friend is a doctor in North Carolina, and I called him and told him, "I just watched this video, how bad is it going to get?" And he said, "it's going to get a lot worse." The first thing out of our mouths was, "how can we help?"
As a girl from Queens, I'm ride or die for the borough. I just felt like there was something that needed to be done.
How did you put a plan in motion?
I come from a very tight family, and you just want to make sure that people are fed and that they're not hungry.
Our whole plan was to send food [to hospitals]. Our friend who's a doctor told us there are no [nearby] restaurants open [for medical staff to get meals]. The restaurants in all the hospitals are definitely closed. [He suggested we] try to send the staff pizza. It's easy to eat.
I thought I could probably swing it that night. Maybe a couple of friends could throw in 20 bucks, and we could do [a delivery] for lunch and for dinner. So I put a request on my Instagram [on March 28th] to Venmo me money. That first day we got $425.
And it grew from there?
The second day we raised $720.
The third day, a [local Queens Instagram page] picked it up, and we raised $1,100. By the time everything was done [in early April], we raised $11,000. We got a couple of $500 donations from people I didn't even know. I got money from all over the United States.
I made sure that every dollar – and then some, we just kept rounding up with our own money -- went to these COVID floors at local hospitals.
We sent 63 different [food] deliveries from 60 small [local restaurants]. Our whole thing was we wanted to try to keep the money local. We sent to Elmhurst Hospital with every single delivery. We sent to Jamaica Hospital, Flushing Hospital, Forest Hills Hospital, Whitestone Hospital, New York Presbyterian, as well as the 104 and 110 [NYPD] Precincts and the EMS that is associated with Elmhurst Hospital. We sent to FDNY Ladder 136 and FDNY Ladder 124. We sent to the Brooklyn VA hospital. We started sending to the morgue at Elmhurst Hospital as well, because there were two guys working there who needed a good meal.
[Note: for more details about Jessica's donations, read her Facebook post here].
What have you learned from this whole process?
Everybody wants to play a part in trying to fix this [situation]. I find that to be the most wonderful piece of this. The fact that everybody wants to help, in whatever way they can. If it was five bucks or 10 bucks or if it was 500 bucks, everybody really wanted to help. That was just the most beautiful part.