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Guest post from David Strom: “The Power of Giving, One Meal at a Time”

This post on GiftAMeal is brought to you by CWEnder David Strom, who writes for a number of national IT business publications. (Strom was a mentor to GiftAMeal founder Andrew Glantz, below, when the app was in its infancy.) To learn more about Strom, visit his website: strominator.com or follow him on Twitter at @dstrom.Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Web/Tech  Strominator GiftAMeal David Strom Andrew Glantz  One of the more interesting startups based in the CWE Cortex complex was started by a Washington University student five years ago. Called GiftAMeal, its premise is simple: when you dine out, you take a picture of your food, drink, or receipt with your phone and send it to them. (Here is a short video that shows you how to do it.) That simple act will cause GiftAMeal to donate funds to Operation Food Search and have someone in need receive a meal (1.2 pounds of food). GiftAMeal handles all the mechanics: the restaurant just has to pay a small monthly subscription fee to participate, ranging from $49 to $149.

The idea came from Andrew Glantz. Since he launched the effort, he graduated from Wash U in 2017 and has become a darling of the St. Louis startup scene. He now has 200 restaurant partners — almost all of which are in St. Louis — and has recently passed 500,000 meals given to charity. He has five staffers, several of them full-time, and is hiring a couple of interns as well.

“The pandemic has reinforced what it means to be an entrepreneur,” he told me recently. “In other words, to stay scrappy and quickly adapt to changes in the market.” One thing that is interesting is that almost all of his restaurant partners have stayed in business during the pandemic. “Two restaurants joined during the pandemic (Zenwich and Revoaked on Euclid). We only had five of them go out of business, including two closed by the Gamlin brothers, sadly. Our partners are relatively stable businesses,” he said.

GiftAMeal has been the beneficiary of number startup programs in St. Louis, one of the reasons why Glantz decided to open his business here. His coursework at the Washington University Skandalaris Center exposed him to the startup ecosystem. “Even though I grew up in LA, this ecosystem made sense for me to stick around and build my roots here,” he said. Since establishing his venture in 2015, he has raised a $50,000 investment from Capital Innovators in 2016 and won an Arch Grants award in November 2018 and this past May won a $20,000 Global Impact Award at W. U. After having raised $165,000 from angel investors he is now in the middle of a second funding round.

I asked Glantz what he thought was the most unexpected thing he has learned in his five year stint at CEO. “Most definitely it is the power of community support. Being able to get introductions, advice and mentorship (including from David Strom) has made our startup a lot easier,” he said. “It is also great to hear personal stories from our patrons on how we have touched their lives, those stories have given us the motivation to grow.” What is interesting is how often he hears from potential partners and diners from around the world that want him to expand to their cities.

Another thing has been how the Central West End Association has figured in his support strategy. “The CWEA has been awesome in their support. They discount GiftAMeal subscriptions for their local restaurant members. It is easy for restaurants to become partners: there is a simple online signup form, which will have them working with GiftAMeal the next day.

You might think that GiftAMeal is mainly for smartphone-carrying millennials. And you would be right, but you would also be surprised that some of their most active users are over 55. Partly because of this generational spread, GiftAMeal just completely redesigned their app to make it even easier to use.

Certainly, having more people review menus and pay for their restaurant meals (including takeout and dine-in) via their phones helps to make the GiftAMeal process easier.

Finally, Glantz says even if you don’t donate a meal, there are still ways you can help support your favorite restaurant in other ways. “They need your support now,” he said.” There are links on his website where you can purchase gift coupons to his partnering restaurants.

Thanks so much to David Strom for the update on Andrew Glantz’ GiftAMeal app. And many thanks to the many patrons who have been using the app, and to partnering restaurants who while facing stressful times themselves during the pandemic, still manage to help those less fortunate.

STL Village celebrates 6th anniversary with virtual Village Aglow event

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  STL Village

Virtual program will feature a variety of local talent

In 2020, STL Village continues to be a bright light for older adults in our community. During this challenging time, our mission of bringing services and companionship to those who would otherwise be isolated has never been more critical.

To keep this light shining bright, we invite the public to support our community of caring by attending our virtual event:

Village Aglow Celebrates the Light

 Monday September 21, 7 p.m. 

The sixth annual Village Aglow gala is free to view and will be streamed online at:

https://vimeo.com/449541642

This uplifting half-hour program features local artists including renowned musician Phillip Graves and singer Adrianne Felton-King, the poetry of William Bruege,  a spoken word performance by the St. Louis Story Stitchers, and a Ballroom Dance Academy performance with Marsha Shepley and Don Peterson.

While no tickets or reservations are required to view the event, the goal is to raise $25,000 for STL Village operating expenses. This annual fundraiser is a significant source of financial support for the nonprofit’s services to members as well as its community outreach programs.  

“We are neighbors helping each other stay connected,” said Madeline Franklin, executive director of STL Village. 

“Providing safe transportation to medical appointments and grocery deliveries to members’ homes have always been a part of our mission. And since the pandemic, we have moved all of our social activities and educational events online with Zoom.”  

Franklin added that volunteers have also been making more friendly calls to check in with members and ‘just chat’ due to the need for staying home and social distancing during Covid-19. 

STL Village is a grassroots community organization founded in 2014 and is one of over 250 independent organizations nationwide that are part of the village movement   supporting older adults who desire to age in place. STL Village is a member of the Village to Village Network, a nonprofit organization providing guidance to villages worldwide. 

For more information on Village Aglow or our member services, contact STL Village at 314-240-5020 or visit stlvillage.org.

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STL Village is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Contact: Madeline Franklin, mfranklin@stlvillage.org

A conversation with former CWEnder & meteorologist Brian Bardone

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Web/Tech  meteorology Earth Satellite Corporation Commodity Weather Group Brian Bardone

In March and April, when parts of the country were shut down, I was intrigued by an article in the NY Times suggesting that weather forecasting could be impacted because air travel had come to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently many airplanes are equipped with sensors that routinely broadcast atmospheric conditions directly to National Weather Service forecasting operations.

Now that air travel has returned—though not quite to the level it was previously, the question of whether weather forecasting has been affected during the pandemic remains. It turns out I knew just the person to ask, meteorologist Brian Bardone, above, who grew up in the Central West End and now lives in Cincinnati with his wife Dawn, and sons Korbin, Kaden, and Koen.

“What you read is true,” Bardone said in response to my questions, “fewer flights were impacting weather models as there were fewer observations that the models needed to run as input. However, how much of an impact reduced flights had is still unknown. Some articles I’ve read say the impact could be low, but again it’s hard to say.” Bardone explained that “satellite observations are the number one input for weather forecasting, air flights are 2nd, and weather balloons are 3rd.”

“There was discussion,” Bardone continued, “about compensating with more balloon observations to measure temperature, dew points, air pressure, etc. but that didn’t happen. What we did observe due to the shutdowns was less air pollution,” he said, “but we have not as yet seen a corresponding decline in CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The theory is that it would take a while for any CO2 reductions to register, as CO2 lingers longer than the pandemic has been around.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Web/Tech  meteorology Earth Satellite Corporation Commodity Weather Group Brian Bardone

Bardone’s mother, Peggy, recalls that he became interested in the weather in the late 70’s—when he was about 4—during a very cold and snowy winter. From the time Brian was a little boy I would hear stories from our late son Peter about his neighborhood friend’s fascination with the weather.

The weather map above is one Bardone drew when he was around 12. As part of our email exchange he related one of his favorite memories from 8th grade at St. Roch. The principal called one evening as a winter storm approached because she was getting conflicting reports on how much snow and sleet was predicted and she wanted his advice. “I told her it was going to be a good-size storm,” Bardone remembered, “and she cancelled school. It was a good call as we had 8 inches of snow on top of a layer of ice.”Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Web/Tech  meteorology Earth Satellite Corporation Commodity Weather Group Brian Bardone

When he was much younger, Bardone would fall asleep listening to his weather radio, above, and dream about working as a meteorologist on tv. His dreams came true for a while while he was earning his bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science at Mizzou. He was offered an internship with meteorologist Dave Murray at Fox 2, which was great, but after graduation in 1998 his career path took him in a different direction. He says now it was the best thing that could have happened.

Bardone’s first job out of college was as a meteorologist for Earth Satellite Corporation (Earth Sat) in Maryland. He provided weather forecasts commodity traders and energy companies would use to make decisions on energy prices and demand. Bardone moved back to St. Louis for a brief stint to work for another forecasting company, then moved to Cincinnati where he has been ever since.

A group of meteorologists from Earth Sat started Commodity Weather Group and invited him to join the company.  His job responsibilities include weather forecasting for energy companies around the country, as well as for commodity traders in natural gas. He also provides forecasts for renewables, focusing on how much electricity wind farms will produce at any given hour up to 10 days out. Those forecasts are shared with companies in Canada and in Europe.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Web/Tech  meteorology Earth Satellite Corporation Commodity Weather Group Brian Bardone

The Bardone family lived at 29 Westmoreland Place from the late ’70’s to early 80’s. The photo shows parents Peggy and and Bob, twins Cadie and Colleen, Brian and older brother Patrick. They kept a horse (Bucky) and pony (Portland) which they would ride in Forest Park, and sometimes bring to the neighborhood’s 4th of July parade when we would gather on Lenox Place.
Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Web/Tech  meteorology Earth Satellite Corporation Commodity Weather Group Brian Bardone

The family also lived in the old Channel 11 building (now the York House) for 7 years, the Tramore Castle, Lindell Terrace, and Park Royal. As was the case with many young adults in the neighborhood, Brian and his brother Patrick worked at Balaban’s during summer vacations and over the holidays.

As we wrapped up our conversation Bardone said that “the CWE was a wonderful place to grow up,” and he still visits whenever he can. “Friends like Peter and Andrew (Dwyer), Vernon Wellington (and others) don’t come around often, and those memories of times together will be forever etched in my memory.”

“Things have changed of course, but it still feels like home. I have fond memories of playing basketball on Lenox Place, ice skating and hockey games at Steinberg Rink in Forest Park, buying baseball cards at The Daily Planet (where BBC Asian Cafe & Bar is now located), my uncle’s place M.P. O’Reillys, (on Maryland Plaza where Bar Louie was located until recently), The Grind and so much more.”

Thanks to Brian Bardone for taking the time to explain a little behind-the-scenes info about weather forecasting, and also sharing what a career as a meteorologist can entail.  His memories of growing up in the neighborhood were fun to hear as well.