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The Element delivering support to healthcare workers and local restaurants

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — 10 years ago, The Element was created under a mission to help build a stable, healthy environment in downtown Rockford.

The organization has been involved with everything from repairing sidewalks on east State Street to hosting First Fridays, which provides a night of entertainment for Rockfordians each month.

However, the latter, like so many other things in our world today, has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This didn't deter The Element from its mission.

It just led them to find a new way of completing it.

"We try to experiment. We have a very small board. We're very loose and creative so we try to do different things, The Element president Ed McCullough said.

The latest experiment to stick for the group is its Feeding Swedes' Front Line intiative.

It involves placing food orders at local restaurants and delivering them to workers at SwedishAmerican hospital.


Over the last six weeks, this project has provided close to 1,000 meals.

"When COVID first hit last spring, all of the businesses downtown were hurting so we came up with the idea of let's try to feed good meals to the clinical staff at Swedes," McCullough said.

It's a win-win situation really.

The service acts as a thank you to healthcare workers as well as a way to support local businesses.

In the case of Wired Cafe in downtown Rockford, this is an opportunity that very much kept them alive.

"I'm not going to lie, it's helped keep our doors open," Wired Cafe owner Crystal Douglas said.


"It's helped me keep my employees, the little that I have, helped keep them here."

Helping frontline workers like this is something Octane owner Patrick Alberto wanted to do on his own but is happy to see another group taking the iniative to help and getting him invovled.

"We could've done this for free and we were determined to do that but obviously with current circumstances we kind of have to watch what we're doing," Alberto said.

"It keeps me hopefully that there are actually people putting together companies to help others."

The largest amount of appreciation may come from those on the receiving end of the meals.

The workers at SwedishAmerican.

As they work every day to handle the sickest people in our community, including those battling COVID-19, a relatively small gesture like this has the largest impact.

"The facility of Swedish-American as a whole has been donated to three or four times a week. It really shows us love," SwedishAmerican emergency room nurse Tanya Mitchell said.

"We appreciate it more than words can even say. We feel very loved and very appreciated. It means a lot to us," SwedishAmerican emergency department manager Jessica Scott said.

Not too bad of an experiment.

The Element has helped bolster the local economy and support those on the front line of the pandemic all in one fell swoop.

All of it stemming from a desire to make our home a better place to be.

"In this weird crazy world we're in, quite frankly, it just feels good to do something. Especially helping those on the front line," McCullough said.

If you know anybody or any group trying to improve the 815, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can reach out to eleake@wrex.com.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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