A medical team at McLaren Hospital in Flint, Mich., pose with smoothies received from Tropical Smoothie Café. (Courtesy Photo)

FLINT, MI — Two weeks ago, Tropical Smoothie Cafe launched their “InItTogether” campaign, donating over 100,000 smoothies to first responders and medical professionals on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harold Bowen, the franchisee of the Flint Township, Fenton, and Grandville locations, is joining the cause to make a difference.

“We started with having to close down our dining area. We were able to let take out orders enter our cafe, and we could stay doing that with five at a time, but I decided to close down inside traffic,” says Bowen. “So we do curbside pickup and online orders and when they order we just get their card, description, and have them park in our curbside area. I think people are hesitant, but the way we do it is touchless, and I think they like that. We do keep our cafe sanitized and do everything we can do to keep everyone safe.”

Bowen contacted several local hospitals and their team got to work. Through their network of employees, families, and friends, they were able to pinpoint who needs the most help and bring them smoothies to not only provide nourishment, but offer a much needed morale boost in a trying time.

“We did McLaren, my daughter’s a nurse so we’re able to have her get contacts for us as far as which departments are the frontline employees affected by this more than the others,” says Bowen. “We found out which departments were open to it, so we had someone come down and pick them up so it was really touchless. At Genesys it was because one of my managers, her aunt works there, so we were able to—we just kind of have the inside track. But Metro Hospital over by Grandville, they have an online scheduling that you can do. I think more hospitals will go to that.”

As far as dropping off the smoothies, the whole operation was easier than they expected with a “hands off” handoff. 

“I drove there, opened the truck, security came out, they took them out and I took off,” says Bowen. “We put a thank you card into them so the works know we appreciate them. We also did the police station in Fenton so that was easy to do, we just called them. If you want to do a hospital, call the main operator and let them know what you’d like to do. I’d think they would get you in touch with the right person.”

Bowen, like many, has family working in hospitals doing what they can to save lives and fight the outbreak of COVID-19. Company aside, this very literally hits home for him. 

“I really just want to let the health care workers know that we’re thinking about them. My wife is a nurse, my daughter is a nurse, and my other daughter works in the hospital at patient registration so she’s kind of on the front line too. I know what anxiety they’re going through right now, so we just want them to know that we appreciate them.”

Currently, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has donated over 60,000 smoothies to first responders. You can learn more about their campaign and find a location near you at https://www.tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

Jonathan Diener is a world-traveling musician, comic writer, and freelance journalist having written for Vice, Alternative Press and The Hard Times. His charitable endeavors include the music compilation...