Oakmont Bakery hosts 10,000 free sandwiches giveaway - Plum

Oakmont Bakery hosts 10,000 free sandwiches giveaway

Monday, March 23, 2020 | 11:51 AM


Kindness filled the air during a rainy Monday morning in Oakmont as free sandwiches made their way into trunks and passenger seats, destined for churches, nursing homes and hungry families’ kitchens.

In all, 10,000 sandwiches made from 2,500 pounds of deli meat and 400 pounds of cheese were handed out to people waiting in a line that stretched down Third Street for most of the morning. Everything — from the food to the work to assemble and deliver them — was donated. Chaffin Luhana Foundation financed the operation.

Oakmont Bakery hosted the crowd.

Eric Chaffin said the operation was designed to feed children after their schools closed in an effort to curb the spread of covid-19. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered schools to closeMarch 13.

Many people were touched by Monday’s act of kindness.

“Kindness is so needed right now. That’s what it’s all about, bringing us all together,” said Janet Berna, 64, of Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood, who waited for eight free sandwiches from her car. She wore a surgical mask and blue gloves.

“It might be a little overboard, but it’s for my mom,” she said of the gear. She said her mother, 92, suffers from congestive heart failure. Berna visits her mom, who lives by herself in Oakmont, every other day. Today, she’ll go there to deliver her a sandwich.

Marc Serrao, Oakmont Bakery’s owner, said Monday’s efforts displayed what Pittsburgh people are all about.

“I do believe the people of Pittsburgh are a little different than most cities in the world. I think that people of Pittsburgh naturally, the way they were raised, just have more of a ‘helping your neighbor out’ kind of mentality,” he said, taking a break from handing out sandwiches.

Tony Serrao, the owner’s son, said the bakery’s crew and others from Turner Dairy, Oakmont Deli and Bird Dog’s Sports Bar have worked about 100 hours over five days or so to organize the delivery system. Cars formed two lines on Sweet Street behind the bakery. Volunteers worked to control traffic and others took orders. Cars were then directed onto Hulton Street.

Peter Sprecher, 15, of Penn Hills, worked the traffic detail at Third Street and the parking lot that led vehicles to Sweet Street for their sandwiches. He said being there beat being at home.

“I think this is really nice what they’re doing,” he said. “One person told me they wanted 100 sandwiches. I might get one at the end, but that’s totally not why I’m here.”

He and his dad, John Paul Sprecher, represented South East Asia Prayer Center on Monday. The faith-based organization is five blocks from Oakmont Bakery.

“So we decided to come and help out where we could,” John Paul Sprecher said.

One woman decided she would spread the kindness at her church by picking up 80 sandwiches.

“We have a feeding program in New Kensington at the United Presbyterian Church between noon and 1 p.m. People can come and pick up grab-and-go bags,” said the Rev. Wendy Keys as her SUV was loaded with the food.

Inside Oakmont Bakery, workers filled takeout orders. The dining room remains closed this week, following Gov. Tom Wolf’s order that all restaurants and bars close their dining facilities for two weeks to control the coronavirus outbreak.

Michael Sullivan, the bakery’s retail manager, said the shop is being extra vigilant during the pandemic. He said someone takes to the bakery’s PA system to remind its customers of social distancing. He is also working to keep his employees busy by wiping down surfaces.

“It’s been odd,” he said of how his job has changed. “This is different for us. But we want to make sure the community gets what it needs.”

Another of those workers was Ramel Dolce, 35, of West Mifflin. His job was to wipe down every surface in the bakery with a cleaning agent every 10 minutes. He said he takes his responsibility seriously. He has parents in Bronx, N.Y., where strict social distancing requirements are in place.

“At least here we can still walk in stores,” Dolce said.