Dave and Pam Peterson, owners of two local McDonalds hand over a box of Quarter Pounders and fries to Nurse Jason Korn and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital staff. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Like most people around the country, David Peterson saw the COVID-19 pandemic unfold through his television screen. Peterson, who is the owner of two McDonald’s restaurants in Goleta, anxiously watched as the virus finally hit Santa Barbara County.

“Watching the news and seeing the workers, we’re seeing all that they’re going through,” said Peterson. “I just thought, ‘Gosh, what can I do to love on them?’ And this was something that I have the means to do.”

So he started personally delivering free McDonald’s meals to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s emergency ward with his wife: 20 quarter pounders with cheese, 20 french fries, and 20 apple pies delivered three times a week. The food has been a hit with doctors and nurses working around the clock to handle COVID-19 cases.

Hospital staff aren’t the only essential workers affected by COVID-19 — restaurants nationwide are shuttering their doors and cutting hours, leaving many food service workers without income. Many of Peterson’s employees live paycheck-to-paycheck and rely on their McDonald’s income to support entire families.

Despite operating at a loss, Peterson explained, “My number one priority is to keep those restaurants and those doors open because I have almost 80 employees. That’s 80 families that depend on a paycheck.” While some hours have been reduced, not a single person has been laid off as a result of declining sales. He’s also offering unlimited free meals to the families of employees, no questions asked.

Through generous donations from friends and community members, Peterson and local business owner John Mullen have also raised $15,000 to distribute in aid to restaurant workers in the Santa Barbara area. With the support of friends and fellow business owners, who were eager to help, the two men aim to visit 50 restaurants and hand out $50 bills to employees to help alleviate financial concerns.

At home, Peterson’s wife is hand-sewing colorful cloth masks in response to the mask shortage. Just last week, the couple was able to distribute 50 masks to McDonald’s employees and customers.

“If everybody does just a little thing, that’s what’s going to get us through this,” said Peterson.  “There’s always something someone can do.”

Interested in donating to support David Peterson’s philanthropy efforts? Contact mcdavesb@gmail.com

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