March 24th, 2020 8:49 AM
Nello Ferrara, owner of Ferrara Pan Fitness, has been donating extra supplies, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, that he doesn't need since his gym has temporarily closed. | File photo
By Maria Maxham
Forest Park businesses that have closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 are offering up supplies, which they would normally use, to help those in need.
Ferrara Pan Fitness Factory at 1525 Circle Ave. shut its doors last week, but owner Nello Ferrara said he doesn't want to sit on supplies that could benefit people in the community.
"I usually order six months of operating supplies ahead of time," said Ferrara. "So I had hand soap, toilet paper and hand sanitizer." He decided, "We don't need this stuff; let's give it to the people who do."
At first, Ferrara reached out via Facebook, specifically to see if elderly, disabled or single parents needed supplies. Right away, he said, people contacted him, so he began to deliver items to community members. He puts the supplies in a bag, sprays the bag with disinfectant, and drops them off at people's houses.
Once he saw the need was so great, he called his supplier and asked if he could get more supplies to distribute. He was able to get hand sanitizer in bulk, the kind that normally would go into machines in doctors' offices or other public places. He was able to cut the bags open and pour the sanitizer into four oz. bottles.
"We gave those to the Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest police departments," said Ferrara.
An assisted living home in Brookfield reached out, and he's working to get supplies to them. Ferrara is also planning to call some other assisted living homes and senior facilities to see what they need.
"It's really sad that people who need these things the most don't have them," said Ferrara. "This is the right thing to do."
He has offered to loan — and deliver — his exercise equipment, including stationary bikes and treadmills, to nurses and doctors who need stress relief or a form of exercise between their shifts.
"When doctors and nurses are faced with something like this, they just keep going. They don't have a lot of time for breaks," said Ferrara. "If I can help them with even 10 minutes of exercise, I'll do it."
Ferrara can be reached at 708-689-0538 with questions or for more information.
Neil Rembos, owner of Crystal Carwash at 901 S. Harlem Ave., has closed his business temporarily during the outbreak, but he, like Ferrara, had ordered supplies in advance and didn't want them to sit around when people needed them.
He donated industrial rolls of toilet paper to Forest Park families who weren't able to find toilet paper in stores. Each roll, he said, would last a family about a month.
"I didn't have any criteria for giving them away," said Rembos, adding that the toilet paper he offered was "quick to go."
"I put out a post on Facebook, and people showed up. I gave away about 22 rolls, and a roll to each of my staff members."
Rembos gave away extra cleaning supplies, too.
"People were surprised when they offered to pay me for the toilet paper and I said I wasn't looking for money," said Rembos. "It's not about making money. If there's a family of four who can't find toilet paper in the stores and they're all home in quarantine, I don't know how they're going to make it through."
He said it was "refreshing" to see the gratefulness and hope of people who stopped by for supplies.
"This is about community," said Rembos. "It's about being part of Forest Park. Regardless of who you are, there's an attitude of being in this together, of making it through as a group. This is not about profit; this is about being part of a community."
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