Our family movie tonight was “Miracle” - one of my all time favorites that I’ve see
n it at least 100 times. But tonight I watched it and was struck in a very different way. This evening, I viewed it from my current lens and focused more on what that team meant to our nation at that moment in history. America was in the throws of a deep recession, you had to wait in line in order to get gas, the Iranians had just taken our embassy hostage, the cold war was proceeding at full steam, and Americans felt that the next 5 years were going to be worse than the previous 5 (and the previous 5 sucked, so that’s saying something). Hope was gone and the American spirit was beaten and bruised. And along came this group of ragtag kids to take on the Soviet machine. Beating them against all odds. And they didn’t do it with talent - they did it with heart, faith, hard work, and an unwillingness to quit. And I thought, right now we as a nation are down, scared, and not knowing what the future will bring. We need to bring back that “can do” attitude and know together we are stronger than any virus, any quarantine, any economic downturn. We need people who are willing to stand up and raise the flag and not be afraid of the unknown - but work hard to defeat it. We will not surrender.
Unfortunately 154 more people passed today bringing the total lives lost (at least in part) to this virus to 3,716. There were also 2,106 new positive cases out of 13,989 people tested. The positive news (not to diminish the lives that were lost) was that these numbers have remained relatively flat and except for the outlier of Wednesday, have significantly improved over the past couple of weeks.
The ratio of positive cases to tested people was only 15% - the lowest rate since March 26th. Further, current cases in the ICU dropped by over 50 and total hospitalizations dropped by 87 to 3,716 - which is the lowest we have seen since April 15th. All of this continues to point to the fact that we have done an excellent job of flattening the curve.
I’m sure you all have heard about Governor Baker’s mask order which I will cover more in a diatribe tomorrow as I want to keep this post positive and I have a lot of mixed emotions on this order that I want to give a day to percolate before I write my rambling rant.
In a nutshell: The Governor has ordered that beginning on May 6th - everyone over the age of two must use a face covering or mask in public places (indoor or outdoor) where maintaining proper social distancing is not possible. This includes any public transportation (mass transit, uber, taxi, pedicab, or piggyback rides from non immediate family). A face covering may include anything that covers your nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf or bandana.
For my friends in Millis - the local CYO and a bunch of other awesome folks have organized a parade to say thanks to the Millis Police and Fire Departments tomorrow at 1. So if you see me and a bunch of other cars rolling down 109 honking and waving you will know what it is all about. Such a nice gesture as they do so much for us every day!
And now I finally get to reveal my big news that I have been working on all week. Warning: this is a bit of a long winded ramble but Ive been working non stop on this and I’m very excited.
The Lord works in mysterious ways and last Saturday night my phone rang with a number that I didn’t recognize - but that is par for the course as of late so I answered it not knowing what to expect. The person on the other end started off by saying that he reads my posts and loves them and was wondering if I could help him with a big project. I thought “oh boy, this is going to be good” so I made sure my beer was relatively full and I plopped down on the couch with a pad of paper.
He started out asking if I had seen the reports of the milk being dumped in the fields because there wasn’t any use for it (no school, closed restaurants, etc) and they obviously couldn’t store milk like they store other commodities, and I cautiously said that I had - not knowing where this was going. He then started buttering me up and saying they knew I was the one person who could help them with their project as they had heard how tenacious, hardworking, and good looking I am (ok I might have made that last part up). Anyway, my spidey senses were really tingling now as I was expecting his next line was going to be that he was a Nigerian prince and would share his fortune with me if I would just give him my bank account and my mother’s maiden name.
But, it turned out he was with the Dairy Farmers of America and wanted to know if I could help the farmers around the region give away all this excess milk to people in need. “Absolutely, let me know where and I’ll hop in my pick up and load it up.” Well, come to find out once we started chatting he was talking about 25,000-30,000 gallons per week throughout the rest of the crisis. (I think I’m going to need a bigger truck). I’ll be honest, my head started spinning and I could barely contain my excitement. What an impact this would make on the lives of so many people who are in need. And what is even cooler, since this milk is coming straight from the farm to the processing plant it has a shelf life of 15 days so people don’t have to worry about it going bad in under a week. (Although at my house during quarantine it seems that we go through a gallon a day).
So, the following morning I started making calls. The person who referred me to the Dairy Farmers of America was my dear friend John Hanselman who owns a company (Vanguard Renewables) that harnesses food waste and other farm by-products and turns it into energy all over the country. (yes, I have some wicked smart friends). He is also the incredibly generous person who is donating his money to pay for all the trucking and processing of the milk since the government wouldn’t just let me put it in zip lock baggies. Anyway, the two of us put our brains together and got to work calling everyone we know. After a very frantic 5 days we achieved what seemed impossible a few days earlier. The name of the program is now: Farmers Feeding Families!
I was able to commandeer a National Guard unit (actually Governor Baker got it for me once I was able to convince him I wasn’t going to invade Rhode Island), partnered with the Greater Boston Food Bank, Food Link, State Police, MEMA, Hood Dairy, Inkify, Holland and Knight, Polar Beverages, and a bunch of other awesome folks including my friend Mayor Walsh.
And next Thursday we will kick this entire mission (MEMA gave me the title of Mission Commander and my buddy John has been teasing me about it ever since) up in Boston. Although I desperately wanted to do something closer to home, the sheer volume of milk we had to give away coupled with the density and amount of people with food insecurity issues in the city made it much more practical. Greater Boston Food Bank will distribute smaller batches of milk to all of the local food pantries as part of my deal with them.
At 7am two Hood Dairy refrigerated 18 wheelers filled with milk will roll into Boston College High School (my son Jack goes there and the President is a friend so they generously donated their facilities and grounds) along with the National Guard and we will begin setting up the first ever Boston drive up milk give away. This first week we are starting with 8,800 gallons of milk and every car that shows up gets two gallons. At 8:30 we will have a little press conference where John and I will get to thank everyone who helped make this a reality and at 9 the cars will begin flowing through. With the State Police and the Guard we are hoping that we can get through 4,000+ cars and walkups and get rid of all of our milk in under 4 hours and begin planning for a bigger distribution the following week. We wanted to start relatively small on this first one. And we will be expanding to Worcester (that John and I are also working on) and Springfield which Congressman Richie Neal will be helping on. Further, throughout the week, Hood and Garelick Farms will be dropping off thousands upon thousands of gallons of fresh milk to the major food banks and they will be distributing the milk out to local food banks so the people in every community in the state have access to fresh milk.
I cannot tell you how honored I am that my friend John would call me (he is a big deal and knows every mover and shaker around so could have reached out to way bigger fish) to help him put this together. It is amazing how many people we are going to be able to help and the farmers are so incredibly happy that they are able to donate their milk to people in need as opposed to letting it go to waste. They can’t furlough their cows so they have to keep milking them. On a personal note, my dad grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa and one of my earliest memories as a child was milking a cow with my grandfather and drinking fresh milk - so being able to help people and make sure the Dairy Farmers get some good press is really special for me.
It is funny, lots of people ask me what a state rep does and my reply differs but it usually boils down to I try and help people. Now obviously none of this falls under state rep, but I am very blessed to have met a lot of amazing people throughout my life who also like helping people and times like these I can reach out and build an amazing team. Granted, I would still do this no matter what my job; but being a rep definitely makes it a lot easier ; especially when it comes to working with other government agencies.
Well, I’m sure you are exhausted from reading my novella, but thank you for taking the time. In case you can’t tell, I’m very excited and I can’t wait for next Thursday (please pray for no rain). We are in this together and the fact that this little nightly post caught the attention of other people who wanted to help those in need is pretty freakin cool.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the weather. Keep doing what you are doing and I look forward to this being over soon. Teaser: tomorrow night will be my first ever Facebook Live with special guest - CiCi Van Tine.
Got Milk? Yes we do!