Coronavirus Impact: Novato restaurant owner makes care packages for community despite struggling business

NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- Tien Lam is used to making either boba tea or breakfast omelettes at his two restaurants in Novato, Bacon and Pearl. But instead, he and his family are now making bags and bags of care packages.

He fills the packages with groceries and supplies and then delivers them to the elderly, the disabled and food insecure families throughout Marin County.

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Lam began two weeks ago at the start of the shelter in place and has continued every single day since, despite his own businesses struggling.

"People are always more important than money. People first and then money after," Lam said, reiterating a mantra he lives by.

"There's a lot of people out of food and they're stuck at home, so I just opened up my freezer, started packing stuff and buying stuff from the grocery store, and delivering it to people," he explained.

Lam posted about his offer on Facebook and requests for the packages came pouring in. At first he was paying out of pocket, but now people have started donating -- so far, a total of roughly $9,000.

Melanie Morgan is one of Lam's frequent customers. She has been helping make the door to door deliveries. She said she's even delivered one to the home of a 101-year-old woman in Kentfield.

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"These groceries have gone to people in zip codes that I had no idea had food insecurities," Morgan said. "Kentfield, Tiburon, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Larkspur."
On Tuesday morning, Morgan delivered a package to a woman who lives in a mobile home park in Novato.

The woman, named Sarah, said she is a single mom with three kids, including one who has underlying health conditions. She explained that she lost her job at a restaurant because of the pandemic and said the care package is a life saver.

"It means that money can go toward my rent and not having to choose," Sarah said, "Between roof and food."

Lam says it's stories like these that will keep him going every day until the shelter in place is over.

"I grew up in the Tenderloin. I grew up with nothing," Lam said. "And now I'm in a position that I can help people, and I feel very, very happy to help."

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