May 23, 2020

By Sandy Foster
Tribune Reporter

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, people scrambled. Some scrambled to get toilet tissue, Lysol wipes and disposable gloves. Others scrambled to stock up on food and water. But some scrambled to find a way to help others.

Liz Bernich and Gina McGuire, both of New Jersey, knew they wanted to do something to help out when the pandemic began. That’s when they got the idea to create FLAG, which stands for Front Line Appreciation Group.

FLAG is a grassroots effort created to feed, and show appreciation for, front line workers while helping local businesses at the same time. Donations are collected and the funds are then used to purchase meals from local restaurants. The meals are delivered to medical workers, firefighters and police who risk their lives to save others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FLAG has gone on to become a nationwide movement with more than 100 chapters of independent, community-based organizations, one of which is run by Liz Ferrigno of Overland Park.

“We want to be able to appreciate and love on our front liners who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe from the spread of COVID-19,” Liz said, “while also supporting our local restaurants by purchasing meals directly from them – and then also giving them some additional publicity by working with us through this initiative.”

The Kansas City FLAG chapter: FLAG KC, has been doing “Firefighter Fridays” throughout the Metro recently. “Lee’s Summit gave us the opportunity to serve ALL 80 firefighters last Friday. We partnered with Summit Hickory Pit BBQ to provide them with delicious lunches,” she said.

Liz’s contact at Summit Hickory Pit BBQ was Genia Birchfield. “I saw a post about FLAG KC online,” Genia said, “and I knew we wanted to get involved. We had the opportunity to donate meals to the Pediatric NICU at Centerpoint Medical Center, and since community outreach is so important to us as a family business, we were thrilled to partner with FLAG KC in preparing and serving meals to the Lee’s Summit Fire Department.”

“It took us about an hour and a half to deliver meals to all seven fire stations around town. It was really humbling to be a part of this,” she said. “The Lee’s Summit community has shown Summit Hickory Pit a lot of support throughout the stay-at-home orders through curbside delivery and it was wonderful to be able to partner with FLAG KC to make this happen.”

To date, FLAG KC has raised over $8,100 in donations and delivered nearly 1,200 meals to front line workers! If you would like to help keep FLAG KC going, there are two ways you can help. One is by donating to their mission, and the other way to help is to volunteer your time. You can learn more at