A new Brookhaven-based fundraiser aims to help local restaurants help healthcare workers, first responders and grocery workers. The plan: buy meals from eateries struggling from pandemic shutdowns, then deliver the food to those who are out working in it.

Dubbed “We Got Your Six,” the effort is organized by the Collette McDonald & Associates real estate agency. Since it started on March 18, it has delivered meals to Emory Saint Joseph’s and Northside hospitals in Sandy Springs, serving food from the Brookhaven restaurants There and Bua Thai + Sushi and its Midtown sister restaurant Mali.

Collette McDonald, center, at the March 24 “We Got Your Six” delivery of meals to emergency room personnel at Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs. (Special)

“It’s a hand up, not a handout,” said McDonald, a Brookhaven resident long involved in local government and police support efforts. “We want small businesses to survive and thrive in Brookhaven, and this is just a small part of what we can do.”

“We Got Your Six” is named for the military term for guarding someone from behind, and for the 6-foot social distancing limit people are supposed to maintain to avoid the coronavirus. It seeks money through GoFundMe.com, where it had raised $3,200 by March 27. Depending on funding, McDonald hopes to add more restaurants and recipients. Next on her list are the workers at the Publix grocery store at the Oglethorpe Crossing shopping center in Brookhaven.

“That’s my next target, is to give back to some of the grocery stores,” she said.

She also encourages anyone to imitate the program in the hopes it spreads nationwide. She works in a virtual brokerage company called eXp Realty and is pushing the idea there. “I said, ‘Take this. Run with it. Here’s the philosophy. Here’s the logo. Run with it.’” And some have, she said, including brokers locally in Henry County and out-of-state in Minnesota.

Like many local cities, Brookhaven has banned dine-in service at restaurants during the pandemic, while allowing takeout and delivery. That leaves many people out of work and some restaurants closing altogether. McDonald noted there are many GoFundMe fundraisers with money going directly to restaurant workers, but she aimed for something that would keep the businesses going. She likens the effort to federal Section 8 housing subsidies.

“We’re trying to elevate these companies, elevate these local restaurants, by allowing them to employ their employees,” she said.

The logo for the “We Got Your Six” fundraiser.

McDonald said she is starting by supporting restaurants with a history of donating to such local efforts as holiday lunches for police officers, the Brookhaven Police Foundation — where she was a founding board member — and the Murphey Candler Baseball youth leagues.

In the first delivery on March 24, she and other volunteers took meals from There to Northside Hospital to feed emergency room workers. The second delivery, on March 26, served the Bua/Mali meals to night-shift workers at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, with some meals also going to Brookhaven and Sandy Springs police officers.

As for her own business, McDonald said real estate is in a strange time as well. Home showings continue, but now with people wearing gloves and booties, and all the lights left on so no one has to touch a switch. She said she is lucky she was ahead of the curve on some technology, such as offering video home tours before an in-person tour to avoid unnecessary trips. In the overall market, interest rates are low, while banks remain stable and new assistance for homeowners is coming. “It’s definitely going to move into more of a buyer’s market because of interest rates,” she said, but some homeowners also will be able to improve the emergency cash flow with some of the mortgage assistance programs.

For more about “We Got Your Six,” see its GoFundMe page here.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.