An emotional conversation with Zoom on the family in which his daughter doctor revealed that exhausted NHS staff “lived on cornflakes” prompted former Formula 1 chef Ron Dennis CBE to launch the SaluteTheNHS campaign to deliver a million meals to health workers.
Dr. Charlotte Hall, who works in intensive care, explained to her family that after exhausting shifts treating patients with Covid-19, health workers found supermarket shelves exposed by panic buyers or were simply too tired to do anything nutritious for themselves.
This moment prompted Mr. Dennis, who had a successful career for decades at the top of McLaren, to create an operation from scratch to provide healthy and fortifying meals to nurses and doctors fighting the front line of the pandemic. , then gobble up hospitals.
Tomorrow, just three months after its launch, the operation should reach its ambitious goal and deliver its millionth meal.
The Herculean effort was carried out by an army of 800 volunteers, made up of recently dismissed people, pilots, agricultural workers and even members of the royal family, all packing meals and care packages to be delivered to the neighborhoods.
The project started with Mr. Dennis, 73, who donated £ 1 million of his own money to pay for logistics equipment such as refrigeration units, forklifts and packaging lines.
Then he started calling CEOs and captains of industry to see if they would donate food and goods to the effort.
“What I found was that since I wasn’t asking for anything, I could be quite arrogant,” said Dennis. The telegraph. “I would say I was pushing against an open door because no one was to explain the cause to them – it really brought out the best in people. ”
Among the companies that donated were grocery giants such as Tesco and Unilever to London-based catering company Absolute Taste, which designed the meal packages to provide NHS staff with the food and food.
In addition to food, the campaign also provided health kits with moisturizer and bath salts to help exhausted NHS workers recover.
Members of the public also participated, as £ 743,000 was raised via sites such as JustGiving, the money then being funded by the Dennis family.
Later, the delivery company Yodel joined the campaign, delivering to health workers who had to self-isolate. Yodel belongs to the Barclay family, owner of the Telegraph Media Group, publisher of The telegraph.
Once the logistics were assembled, Mr. Dennis used his Formula 1 contact book to ask former McLaren chief engineering officer Simon Roberts to direct the operation from a huge hangar in Bicester, in the Oxfordshire.
Mr. Dennis said, “It was very coordinated and we had meetings in the morning, so it was a kind of military operation. We found it very useful to create a mission so that everything we did took us for granted that Covid-19 was the enemy. So we became very military in our approach, but it created the discipline for it to work. ”
The hangar had teams of 150 volunteers working in teams to produce thousands of meals that were sent to nearly 50 hospitals at the peak of distribution.
Earlier this week, the volunteers were joined by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who donned high-visibility jackets and PPE to participate in the assembly line.
“They really wanted to participate,” said Dennis. “And it turned out to everyone they spoke to. For the volunteers, it was magic for them to experience this. ”
Having reached its formidable goal of delivering a million meals, Operation SaluteTheNHS is scheduled to end in mid-July, by which time it will have delivered approximately 1.1 million packages.
Dennis said there will be sadness among the hundreds of volunteers, many of whom have made new friends because of the thousands of hours they have spent together supporting NHS workers.
“No one should look back without pride,” added Dennis. “I was a facilitator, but it was the volunteers who really made it happen.”