VIENNA, VA — Early during the pandemic, Social Burger owner Denise Lee was just looking for a way to keep her kitchen open. It started with providing meals to front-line workers at Inova Health System in March. But once it seemed like front-line workers were receiving help from a lot of places, Social Burger expanded its reach.
“I felt like the shelters needed a lot of help too,” Lee told Patch.
In late April, Social Burger started providing 40 weekly meals to the Lamb Center, a daytime drop-in shelter located in Fairfax. The Lamb Center has continued to provide crucial services like meals, laundry and showers for their homeless guests by letting in five guests at a time for 30-minute visits.
On Wednesdays, guests get to look forward to Burger Day as Social Burger drops off its meals. As of last week, Social Burger has donated 1,000 meals to the Lamb Center.
“The Lamb Center is grateful for the awesome lunch Social Burger provides every Wednesday,” said Tara Ruszkowski, a board member at the Lamb Center. “Their generosity is amazing, and our guests appreciate their delicious chicken and burgers.”
When ordering from Social Burger, customers can add on a front-line worker, shelter and first responder meal to their order. Lee says the meals can be sustained through customer support on some weeks, but the business is able to provide the meals either way through 2020.
“We’ve been so lucky we haven’t had to close. We’ve been able to sustain those meals regardless,” said Lee.
The assistance isn’t just limited to meals either. When the Lamb Center expressed a need for bottled water, Social Burger added it as an option for customers. Lee estimated the business provided nearly 10,000 bottles.
Lee has dropped off meals herself for the past two weeks, witnessing the ways the center continues to help those in need. On the Lamb Center’s continuing work during the pandemic, Lee says, “They’re so resilient. They’ve found a way to work for them.”
Aside from community support, the Lamb Center relies on an annual banquet dinner as a key fundraising effort. This year, the Hope and a Future 2020 event will be a virtual fundraiser on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. The celebration features stories of transformation and new life, with funds directly supporting the Lamb Center’s programming and daily operations.
As for Social Burger, Lee remains positive about business despite the challenges of the pandemic. She said running a business during a pandemic has been more challenging than opening the business six years ago. But she had a big thank you to Social Burger’s customer base and Vienna business owners for being there to support each other.
“We wouldn’t have the business we have if we didn’t open in town,” said Lee, who is also a Vienna resident.
In that same regard, she attributed the success of the meal donation initiative to customer support. Once 2021 arrives, Lee wants to continue helping the community in some way, whether it’s support for another business or something else.