Omar Karasu is a teacher and varsity football assistant coach at Port Jefferson High School, a junior varsity lacrosse coach at Comsewogue High School, and a private chef during the summer months. 

When schools shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Karasu decided he wanted to put his culinary skills to use and give back to the hospital workers working day and night to fight the virus. 

His parents, who own Sugar Sugar Day Spa in Port Jeff, donated money to his cause and he made around 200 meals for the staffers at Mather and St. Charles hospitals. 

He chose these local hospitals because he felt they weren’t getting the same amount of support compared to other larger intuitions on the island.

“We were like, ‘Let’s give back to the hospitals that aren’t getting anything,'” Karasu said. 

The next day following the drop-off, Karasu got a call from Fox News and his mission took off. 

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At the beginning of April, the Port Jeff chef started the Facebook fundraiser, Feeding Frontliners, where he collects donations from the community, like people he’s coached, his clients, and more. He also received online donations via Venmo. 

According to the Facebook fundraiser, over the last month-plus, the foundation has raised over $5,000 on Facebook, and Karasu said he has also received almost $8,000 in private donations.

All the money goes towards food and PPE equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

“The goal was $1,000 and now we’re almost at about $10,000,” Karasu said this week. 

He’s also partnered up with Marios Patatinis, the owner of Stony Brook restaurants Sweet Mama’s and The Bench, and joined forces in making food and deliveries to St. Charles and Mathers hospital. The fundraiser also provides meals to Stony Brook Hospital, testing centers, the VA, and more. 

“He is a great influence in the community and he’s been helping me a lot through this whole thing,” Karasu said of Patatinis.

Karasu said doctors at different hospitals are sponsoring lunches for the medical staff on their specific floors. 

“You have all these people you never knew had all this family inside of a hospital — doctors, nurses, what have you — they started donating privately,” he said. “I started making food for their floor, specifically for that doctor and the people that help them.” 

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As the fundraiser continued to grow, more people outside of the Port Jeff community started to help out.

The girls’ lacrosse team of Ward Melville High School, Karasu’s alma mater, started selling equipment for their season, but when it was canceled, the team donated all the proceeds to Feeding Frontliners. 

“It’s been a charity thing, but I also own a catering business, so it’s been good on both ends, and showing that people in the community should be taking care of people in the community,” Karasu said. 

In regards to the future of Feeding Frontliners, he hopes to continue the fundraiser after the pandemic and broaden his reach. 

“My next goal, after this is over, is possibly making this a thing [where] we are going to be able to help people in unfortunate circumstances because I don’t think this is going to go away any time soon,” he said. “Even is the numbers go down, at least I know that I’m backed by the community — if a family needs food, I can provide it.”

He said as a teacher, he knows many families who rely on schools for food, so he hopes to create a food bank to continue to feed those in need. 

On Easter, Karasu helped out a paramedic who had COVID-19 and couldn’t go out to get his daughter macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers for dinner. Karasu made the food and delivered it personally to the paramedic’s house. 

“She got Easter the way she wanted it,” he said. “People who might be embarrassed otherwise are not, now they are coming forward and they know it’s a guy like me that they know and they trust in the community.” 

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Karasu said on top of running this fundraiser, he is also a part of The Three Village Dads Foundation, which is also contributing to Feeding Frontliners.

“They have a lot of guys in that group that are ex-military, doctors, and nurses,” he said. “They are all coming together and helping us achieve what we do.”

The Feeding Frontliners organizer said it feels great to take action and he hopes that this fundraiser inspires others to help their communities during this time and provide relief in any way that they can. 

“It’s great because it’s giving exposure to the cause at hand and shows that you can make a difference in your community, whether that be a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a custodian, or whatever the case may be,” Karasu said. “Anybody can make a difference as long as you just do something and not just talk about it.” 

All photos provided by Omar Karasu.