This story is part of a series that will highlight the good things people are doing in the Yakima Valley despite the coronavirus outbreak. If you want to give someone in the community a shoutout, please email reporter Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or call 509-833-2168.

The windows at Meraki Creations on Summitview Avenue offer messages of hope and encouragement.

"Keep the Faith," one boldly painted message declared. "Yakima Strong," read another, along with "Love thy Neighbor" and “Just Love.”

Owner Angie Devora opened the restaurant less than three months ago. Having her own business has been a lifelong dream, and Devora teared up at the thought of the financial challenges ahead.

But in the midst of the uncertainty about her restaurant, she’s choosing to give back.

Devora is brown-bagging free lunches local seniors can pick up daily at the restaurant. She’s doing it because her grandparents played such a pivotal role in defining who she is today, Devora said.

“The grab-and-go lunches are to help the elderly in our community, who are a high-risk population,” she said. “It is my pleasure to help as much as I can, the little I can, for as long as I can.”

Devora said she learned her work ethic, commitment to service, and compassion from her grandparents.

A picture of her grandfather hangs near the entrance of her shop, above a sign that reads, “Little girls with big dreams become women with vision.” Devora’s eyes teared up as she recounted a story of her grandfather sorting through garbage for scraps he could eat so he could keep his entire paycheck for her grandmother and the couple’s seven children.

“They expressed and displayed selfless acts of courage and kindness in my life,” she said. “I feel compelled to continue on for them.”

Those who stop by have shared their appreciation for her efforts on behalf of seniors, she said.

“We have been having people show up every day for it,” Devora said. “I also have people who are picking up the lunches for their elderly loved ones. I’m really happy that the community is coming together.”

Jackie Brown, who stopped by Friday to pick up a free bagged lunch for his 91-year-old mother, slipped Devora a wad of bills when she came out carrying the free food, as well as a heartfelt “Keep up the good work."

“My part is that contribution,” he said. “I see what they are doing. God bless her. This helps us out a lot.”

Devora has kept Meraki Creations open for to-go orders only, in compliance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s order banning in-house dining at food establishments. She’s taking every precaution to keep her customers safe, including wearing latex gloves while serving, wiping down pens used to sign credit card receipts after every transaction and using disposable menus.

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She also has customers wait by their vehicles, rather than congregating at the restaurant’s entrance while she prepares their orders to show she’s taking social distancing recommendations seriously.

Yakima resident Sarah Ortner, who stopped by Meraki to pick up a to-go order last week, said she wanted to help out Devora and applauds Devora’s extra precautions.

“I really appreciate that she’s wiping down pens and making sure there’s no hand-to-hand contact,” she said.

Yakima resident Maritza Hathaway, who also stopped by Meraki with her friend Ariah Humphreys for a to-go order Friday, said she’d been eating out all week to help local business owners. Hathaway said she and her husband have considered opening their own business, so they sympathize with the financial challenges facing small restaurants like Meraki Creations.

“It’s very humbling to know she’s giving away the meals for seniors, that she’s putting herself aside and helping those who are higher risk,” Hathaway said. “It’s heartwarming because it brings everyone together and shows we can still help each other. This sort of thing should bring us closer together.”

Devora said she appreciates the community’s support and will continue trying to do her part.

“I have to know in my heart that I tried as much as I could to help,” she said. “I hope I make it. I hope we all make it.”

Other shoutouts

  • AK Wintzer gives a shoutout to the instructors and owner of Premier Fitness in Yakima, who have created videos of class routines and loaned out various pieces of gym equipment to members, including spin bikes. "Their efforts to keep members engaged and healthy exemplifies the kindness in our community," Wintzer wrote. 
  • Kara Lowe, a Toppenish resident who is a mail carrier with the United States Postal Service in Yakima, was touched this week by an employee at Roy's Ace Hardware, 405 West Yakima Ave. Lowe said mail carriers have started wearing gloves while delivering mail to minimize their and others' exposure to the coronavirus. One day she forgot to replenish her gloves and had used her last pair while partway through a shift. When she stopped into Roy's, they were out of her size, and she was turning to go when a busy man on a phone saw her and ran back to the supply closet, returning moments later with her size. "I was just touched by his attention to me despite the busy time and the scarcity of supplies, and that he'd go out of his way to make sure I walked out with what I needed to do my job safely," Lowe said. "Made me grateful for that 'small town' concern and servant hood we can still see here sometimes."

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Reach Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @LexTalamo.