By Linda Viertel
When her iconic restaurant was forced to close its doors temporarily by government decree on March 16, Horsefeathers owner Julia McCue knew she wanted to keep as many of her staff employed as possible. She was inundated with suggestions, started brainstorming with others and came up with the idea of offering gift cards on the Horsefeathers website. The very first card was bought by a couple from Pennsylvania who loves the restaurant, visits Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow every October for Halloween, and who said,” We’re buying this gift certificate for you to go feed first responders.” McCue’s immediate response was, “If someone gives me money to feed people, I’m going to feed them.” Initially, she a took picture of the food donation, put it online, and more and more gift cards began to be purchased for meal distribution.
Someone who bought a donation card said, “Feed a restaurant worker who has been laid off,” so McCue expanded her program to do just. Then she thought she needed to aid others who had lost their jobs as well as others who were quarantined and needed a hot meal. Teachers began suggesting families they knew who needed help. That’s when McCue turned to someone who had her pulse on a multitude of residents and organizations in the village: the go-to person for what is happening in our rivertowns. That would be Anne Richards, who curates the 10591 social media site. Together McCue and Richards keep track of all donations and make sure they reach as many who need their help as possible.
They call their project “A Moveable Feast,” after Hemingway’s loving memoir of Paris in the 1920’s. But McCue’s project is, as she says, “The memory of a splendid place that continues to go with the moving traveler for the rest of life, after he has had the experience of it and gone away.” She knows Horsefeathers will return full-time in the future.
McCue has a “limited donation” menu for ordering so as to stretch the donation budget as far as possible, and she is constantly adjusting what she can offer, (urging those who request a donation to choose from two itemized offerings, a procedure that may change periodically) enough to supplement their meals for a few days’ time. She takes 10% off the “bill” as her donation, balances her budget every night, and makes sure she knows how much food to have on hand to cook the following day.
Three chefs, all of whom have been cooking at Horsefeathers for at least 20 years, are in the kitchen, with gloves on and operating under the strictest health and safety guidelines. One day they prepared and gave away $700 worth of food. In addition to cooking from 1-3 p.m. on charity food production, Horsefeathers is open weekdays for take-out orders from 3 p.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Curbside pick-up is available, but orders can also be brought to your car with all medical precautions in place.
McCue and Richards deliver meals along with several volunteers. Julia’s father even drove to the Port Chester Police Department to leave a specially requested “food box” when someone sent a donation in for his brother, a Port Chester policeman.
She recently made a courtesy lunch for all the residents at Phelps who used to meet at Horsefeathers last fall. McCue says that she is grateful she has gotten to know people in the community she has never met before through such donations, including members of the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow police departments, EMS, County Dispatch, and the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps (OVAC), among others. She is making new connections in our rivertown world while hoping that restaurants in other communities will help their in-house workers as well as others in need. But she definitely knows she couldn’t have made “A Moveable Feast” happen without Anne Richards, someone who is a valuable networker helping to connect donations with those who are most food insecure .
All donated funds go directly to paying the Horsefeathers operating costs and those in need. McCue emphasizes that no profit is made on her charity work. Her sole goal, she notes, “Is to keep on getting food out to those who need it most.” As McCue wisely and humanely says, “Everyone needs help; don’t be ashamed. We’re all here to help. It’s no one’s fault this has happened.” So, if you know someone who needs a warm meal, please reach out to Anne Richards via the 10591 Facebook site, and they will do their best to get one to them.
Visit horsefeathersny.com and click on the DONATE button to see the jack-o-lantern/cornucopia medallions indicating amount choices for donations: send to Horsefeathers, 94 North Broadway, Tarrytown, 10591, (914-359-9973).
You can stay up to date with Horsefeathers donations via Facebook: horsefeathersNY, or Instagram: Horsefeathers.