THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Diane Letulier met her new friend, Joanne Hughes-Koenig, when her 79-year-old mother was sick with COVID-19. For years, they lived within miles of each other, but it took the Nextdoor app to bring them together.

Hughes-Koenig saw how many of her neighbors were being impacted by COVID-19 and wanted to do something to bring the community together. She organized a meal train, delivering lunch and dinner to nurses at Los Robles Hospital, and Letulier was more than happy to join the community effort. It was a way for Letulier to take her mind off the stress of having her mother in the ICU.

“I need to make myself useful. And what I tend to do is get out of myself and help,” Letulier said.

Every day the Thousand Oaks neighbors choose a local restaurant to support. They started out paying for everything out of pocket, but after more of the community heard about the daily meal drop-offs, people began making donations, and some restaurants offered to provide free food.

Although it seems like a simple act of kindness, only an hour of her day, Letulier knows it means so much more to the nurses. 

"[Nurses] are so surprised, grateful, and tired. Just to have a little treat or something rather than cafeteria food every day, I think, is really good morale for them,” Letulier said.

Hughes-Koenig said she believes they have delivered over 1,000 meals since December 29, 2020, and plan to keep going until there are no more COVID-19 patients at Los Robles Hospital.

“Show [the nurses] that we care, they are not alone, and they are saving lives while they’re risking their own lives. This is the least we can do,” Hughes-Koenig said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Joanne Hughes-Koenig's name. This has been corrected. (February 24, 2021)