We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanne Hughes-Koenig and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Joanne, how does your business help the community?
I have always yearned for a connection with my community. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I had a close relationship with my neighbors, living in an apartment building. When the pandemic started and stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, I wanted to reach out to my neighborhood and learn which ways I could help. Whether it was grocery shopping or picking up medication for the elderly, or talking on the phone so they felt less isolated, I wanted to support them somehow. With that in mind, I started a community support group on the Nextdoor app with the objective to have it as a forum for positive and motivational posts. I also intended to provide useful information about latest County orders, resources available for help, and promote small businesses. I envisioned this group to be a unifier for the community. Within several months, the group soared to 500 members. At the end of last year, after making masks for the community, exchanging fruits from our backyards, conducting zoom meetings, and going on a few safely distanced hikes with masks on, we started feeding our health care workers at the local hospital that was overwhelmed with the recent surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations. This initiative quickly gained support from the community, with donations pouring in, and volunteers willing to order and deliver the food. Garnering that much interest, we were able to provide meals for 25 to 40 medical workers every single day for two and a half months. We delivered more than two thousand meals during that time. We expanded this effort to include thank you cards and drawings from local children, candy, treats, and snacks for the tireless medical staff, and new clothes for the hospital to give to patients who are homeless or cannot afford them. In late December, I started a Facebook group solely dedicated to this effort and with over 140 members, and 70 donors and volunteers, we not only lifted the morale of our health care workers, knowing that the community cares about their heroic work, but also helped local restaurants with the food ordered. Now that Covid-19 hospitalizations are declining, we are looking for ways to feed local families in need so changing the focus of the group for this new objective. It’s been a very profound experience to know that when a community gets together with a good purpose and for a worthy cause, we can make a significant difference.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I came to the United States from Brazil at the age of 19 to improve my English while pursuing an undergrad education in the US. The first two years, I faced a difficult challenge adapting to a new culture, language, and way of life. But I persevered. I ended up being on the Dean’s List for three semesters in a row, becoming an active member of the International Students Association, and the reporter of the school’s news channel. In my professional career, I climbed the ladder in the corporate world, becoming a communications manager for a luxury lifestyle magazine—a prestigious job communicating with very wealthy individuals. Despite that, I didn’t feel fulfilled. That’s when I decided to leave my career and start my own business. I didn’t know how to do it, but I knew I had the will, tenacity, and leadership skills to work for myself. So I took a course in web development to design my website and started a pet sitting business, Paws2Love, since one of my passions are animals. I also wanted to do something productive in my neighborhood so I started a community support group on Nextdoor. Today I am very fulfilled. I have grown my clientele. I have the most appreciative clients, and I feel extremely gratified in the community work I am doing. I am also getting a certificate in copyediting through UC Berkeley to open up for one-stop agency for authors looking to publish their work.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to Diane Letulier who is my partner in the meal effort. She stepped right in as soon as I announced that I wanted to turn a one-time food delivery into an ongoing initiative. She has ever since then become the person that I go to discuss ideas, make plans, and help reach out to new restaurants. She is constantly thinking of ways to reach more people, get more donations, and support different eateries. Without her and the dozens of volunteers and donors, the feeding project would have not taken off like it has. I would have not been able to support as many health care workers. My shoutout goes to Diane and the community for their willingness to help one another.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jo_carioca/

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/joanne-hughes-koenig

Other: Email: communityrelief4covid@gmail.com Nextdoor: https://nextdoor.com/g/ek0h3d64l/

Image Credits
The last one was me (in fuchsia and grey) and Diane Letulier, my partner in the meal project, delivering boxes of Nothing Bundt cakes to the hospital.
Joanne Hughes-Koenig

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.