Andrew Townson ’10 and David Forster of PekoPeko ramen restaurant
May 06, 2020

Andover Stories: A news roundup to make you smile

Big Blue bright spots in challenging times

Good news is more important than ever. Andover magazine is dedicated to keeping our community connected through inspiring and uplifting stories about alumni, faculty, and students.

Here are a few reasons to feel good and to take your mind off of other things:

This is about hope and taking care of our neighbors and each other.

Andrew Towson ’10 General Manager of PekoPeko ramen restaurant in Baltimore, Md.

Soul Food

Not all heroes wear capes. Healthcare workers on the front lines are enduring long, hard hours—some pulling extra shifts without stopping to eat.

Enter Andrew Townson ’10 and his business partner David Forster, who have shifted their popular Baltimore ramen restaurant, PekoPeko, into a delivery operation serving up wholesome free meals to hospital workers and the city’s most vulnerable.

“The people of our city chose to support and invest in us ever since we opened our doors three years ago,” Townson says. “We wanted them to know that during this challenging time, we have their backs and will continue to pay it forward as long as we can.”

PekoPeko delivering nutritious rice bowls to healthcare workers at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Md. The restaurant has been providing meals to an average of eight area hospitals and a neighborhood soup kitchen weekly.

When PekoPeko closed its doors on March 16, “Feed it Forward” was born. The program, made possible through public donations, is enabling the restaurant to deliver hundreds of meals weekly to eight area hospitals and a local soup kitchen. As of Tuesday April 28, Baltimore had nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 citywide and climbing, according to the state of Maryland's website.

As doctors and nurses struggle to care for the rising tide of coronavirus patients, Townson and Forster were determined to find a way to help and keep their business alive at the same time.

PekoPeko (a Japanese name that loosely translates to “I’m hungry”) has raised more than $36,000 to date, enough to serve more than 2,000 of the restaurant’s rice bowl meals (both a meat and a vegetarian option).

Delivering the meals has not only helped essential workers and the city’s homeless, it has also helped the business to continue to pay its staff.

“The restaurant was designed around the idea of a shared experience and building community,” Townson explains. “This is about hope and taking care of our neighbors and each other. We will continue trying to share our food with Baltimore, even though we can’t open our doors right now.”

Sarah Ludington ’88's Brooklyn distillery, Van Brunt, is helping the community and essential workers by donating 400 gallons of hand sanitizer—with more on the way.

Raising Spirits

Sarah Ludington ’88 knows a thing or two about hand crafted American whiskey. But since March, her award-winning Brooklyn distillery, Van Brunt Stillhouse, has pivoted its production from pleasure to purpose with stills churning out hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer.

“When the pandemic hit, we knew almost immediately that this was something we could do,” Ludington says. “We are grateful that there is something we can offer up that is of help, and also keep staff working.”

Because distilleries work with specialized equipment capable of making high-proof alcohol, they have become an unorthodox source of hand sanitizer, which remains in short supply. Following guidelines set by the World Health Organization, Ludington hit pause in March on making artisanal spirits to begin producing around 400 gallons of their signature house-made bacteria fighter, “Still Clean.”

For each bottle sold at Van Brunt, one is donated to front line workers and essential business organizations. Most recently, batches of Still Clean was distributed among local EMTs and mutual aid volunteers.

Challenging times, adds Ludington, call for creative solutions. With the doors to their tasting room now closed amidst social distancing, Van Brunt has also opted to bring the tasting experience into homes via virtual classes on Instagram every two weeks. The next one, scheduled for Saturday, May 9, includes tips and tricks of the trade from a small-batch distiller working in one of the world’s largest cities. To learn more, click here.

The Nest lab's Makerspace proctor Evan Sermos with the MakerBots that have been busy churning out parts for face masks to aid frontline workers.

Makers With a Mission

In March, as the COVID-19 crisis escalated and Andover’s administration announced that students, faculty, and staff would not be returning to campus, Mike Barker, director of academy research, information, and library services, had the foresight to send the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library’s 3D printers home with a few skilled makers.

“Because we can’t be on campus with our beloved printers,” says Barker, “I sent them off campus so we could manufacture face mask frames from homes.”

The MakerBot printers journeyed home with Makerspace proctor Evan Sermos, coordinator of engineering and robotics Ben Peters, and Hailey Wadell ’21, whose father, Brian, is helping facilitate face shield production with another printing company.

With the MakerBots working overtime in his basement, Sermos has since printed dozens of the two parts that make up the frame of a standard transparent full-face shield. Dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, he’s already optimized the design to create a better product. Wadell, her father, and others are printing the plexiglass shields and head straps. Honoring our Big Blue spirit, Waddell even printed a non sibi head strap.

Once assembled, the masks will be distributed to local nursing homes in desperate need of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

—Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Led by Dr. Keith Flaherty ’89, the COVID-19 Clinical Research team at Massachusetts General Hospital has launched treatment trials that are pairing leading health experts together in real time.

Ingenuity Engine

With the race to find treatments and vaccines accelerating, there are now 72 registered clinical trials ongoing in the United States and abroad, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The need for fast action has prompted Massachusetts General Hospital to launch a COVID-19 clinical trials platform that pairs, in real time, infectious disease and immunology experts with organ-specific physiology and clinical care leaders to rapidly implement and conduct new investigator-and industry-initiated clinical trials. The program is led by Dr. Keith Flaherty ’89, director of clinical research in the Mass General Cancer Center and veteran architect of “basket” trials in oncology.

In the last week of March alone, 15 such trials at Mass General were proposed. Four trials have started.

“There is a lot of activity and 24-hour cycle progress being made on 10 to 12 fronts when it comes to COVID-19 clinical research,” Dr. Flaherty says. ”I’ve never worked harder in my life. I’ve met dozens and dozens of people who are sprinting right now to get ahead of this pandemic.”

The COVID-19 Clinical Research team will leverage Mass General’s unique capacities for monitoring antiviral and inflammatory responses to potential treatments to understand if these drugs are doing their job, while maintaining a primary focus on improving patient outcomes.

Staying Zen

During this time of social distancing, it is more important than ever to focus on self-care to keep feeling calm and grounded.

Margot Kent Timball ’75, owner of Comeback Yoga, a Colorado-based nonprofit providing free yoga classes to veterans, is offering daily yoga classes on YouTube to help us all get moving and find balance, while waiting for the pandemic to pass.

A Night at the Museum

The coronavirus has us staying home, but we can still travel virtually.

A growing number of museums—Paris’s Louvre, Russia’s Hermitage, and the National Museum in Washington D.C.—are offering virtual tours of exhibits. And now you can add The Addison Gallery of American Art to the list.

Thanks to PA ninth-grader, Dongcheng Han, a virtual tour of the Addison’s first floor exhibitions can be viewed from the comfort of your couch, or anywhere that makes you happy.

Some Indoor Sunshine

Even on a cloudy day, this performance of “Andante for Strings” by John Cacavas from Holly Barnes’s Music 500 class clears our minds and brings all kinds of good feels.

1st Violin: Luke Henderson '21, Ellie Cho '23, Jasmine Ma '23 2nd Violin: Audrey Sun '23, Cathy Cho '22 Viola: Mrs. Barnes Cello: Hanbie Park '23, Evan Tsai '21 Piano: Ariel Wang '21.

Interim Head of School Jim Ventre ’79's lovable Portuguese water dog, Rosie.

And Some Dogs

Because looking at our four-legged friends of PA always makes us smile. Click here to see more cute dogs—woof!

Editor’s Note: We will continue to highlight these types of stories in the coming weeks. If you have a non sibi story and would like to share it, please contact [email protected]

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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