Thursday, March 26, 2020 / by Ken Couture
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals, families and businesses in Las Vegas are stepping up to offer relief to people in the community who are in need of food, services and support. Here are stories about people who are leading with kindness and proving the community is #VegasStrong. Offers are valid at the time of posting and may change.
Popcorn donations help hospital staff, small business
Las Vegan Vicky Anna Cho called Dave Goodwin, owner of Goody’s Original Popcorn, to ask if he could donate popcorn to area hospitals. He explained that, as a small business, he was struggling to stay afloat. All of his events had canceled.
So Cho purchased a large quantity of popcorn and asked Goodwin to donate it for her.
“I thought it was a great idea,” says Goodwin. “She really snowballed the idea. Other individuals have ordered popcorn to donate. Keller Williams Realty purchased a large order.”
Goodwin is selling bags for donation for $5 each on his website goodyslv.com. So far, he’s received purchases for 55 bags of popcorn to go to staff at local hospitals.
“Hospital staff is busy. They don’t have time to sit and eat a meal,” says Goodwin. “I thought popcorn could be a good fit. They can stop and eat a couple kernels.”
Goodwin wants to emphasize that it is the Las Vegas community who is donating the popcorn bags, not him.
“The beauty is, it’s about the locals. Vicky started helping me send the popcorn,” says Goodwin. “These beautiful people are not only showing their appreciation to them but are helping a small business like myself stay afloat.”
Burger Bar donates gloves
Chef Hubert Keller and his restaurant Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay donated all of their gloves to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center on Monday.
Treasure Island donates food
Last week Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas donated surplus food including perishable items such as fruit, dairy products and vegetables to local community food banks, and Las Vegas church My Father’s House.
Circle K raises staff pay, gives free coffee to first responders
Circle K is providing free coffee and fountain sodas to healthcare workers and first responders.
They are also increasing hourly employees’ pay by an additional $2.50 an hour.
Circle K Head of U.S. Marketing, Alicia Mowder says, “We know our store employees are on the front line of this health emergency, and that our stores play a vital role in the communities where we live and work, especially in times of crisis. To show our appreciation and gratitude, effective March 20th, all North American hourly store employees will receive an additional $2.50 an hour added to their base hourly rate. This enhanced emergency appreciation pay program will continue until further notice. We are proud of our store employees and their commitment to our customers.”
Restaurant forced to close, donates perishable food
Shiraz Las Vegas has decided to close its doors temporarily due to the hardships that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Chef Jainine Jaffer is shifting her focus toward helping the local Las Vegas community.
“As I sit here in an empty restaurant, I wonder where I fell short,” said Jaffer in a statement when asked about her decision to close. “Despite all my best efforts to keep the doors open and my staff working, it wasn’t enough. Whereas we have had some amazing friends and customers support us with ordering takeout or deliveries, we haven’t had a level of sustainability. With an incredibly heavy heart, I am now faced with the decision to temporarily close the doors.”
Jaffer and restaurant owner Raja Majid have turned all of their usable product into donation-ready meals to be delivered to the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada to assist individuals and families in dire need. Shiraz Las Vegas has turned their surplus of product into hand-prepared meals, including pasta bolognese, chicken tikka stir fry, and okra and garbanzo chili.
Jaffer also is offering custom meal prep options for individuals and families who are looking to stay on-track with healthy eats during the 30-day shut-in.
Buy a bagel, donate a bagel
When guests purchase a Baker’s Dozen Box, which includes 13 bagels and two tubs of shmear, Einstein Bros. Bagels will donate 13 bagels to local community groups in need across the country. Bagel donations will go to local schools needing meal assistance, food banks, fire stations and police.
Cardinals outfielder matching donations to Three Square
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact people worldwide, Dexter Fowler found a way to help in Las Vegas, where he lives with his family.
The Cardinals outfielder is supporting the Las Vegas emergency food fund Three Square, according to mlb.com. He’s encouraging fans to help, too, by matching every dollar donated through threesquare.org/fowler.
“Food is the most basic of needs and it is essential that Three Square Las Vegas continues making meals available,” Fowler tweeted Monday night. “Especially for children, seniors, veterans and furloughed workers.”
Fowler is encouraging fans to take a screenshot when they’ve donated and tweet it to him, so he can send a gift of thanks to a select few.
Homebuilder donating masks, eye protection
One of America’s biggest builders is collecting unused, excess N95 and construction face masks and eye protection equipment for the healthcare system.
D.R. Horton’s Henderson office at 1081 Whitney Ranch Drive is collecting the equipment as well as cash donations.
Homebuilder Woodside Homes said Wednesday it will participate.
“This is an opportunity for the homebuilding industry to step up to aid in the coronavirus public health crisis and protect our essential health care workers,” Woodside Homes CEO Joel Shine said in a statement.
Clark County Parks & Rec offers child care for UMC employees
Clark County’s Department of Parks and Recreation has announced it will provide child care assistance to University Medical Center employees. The department is also asking the public to donate masks, gloves, Clorox wipes, disinfectant cleaners and digital thermometers to help keep staff and participants safe. Items can be brought to the Sunset Administration Office at 2601 E. Sunset Road. For more information on child care or donations, call 702-455-8200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Station Casinos donates food to local charities
More than 120 pallets of food from 10 Station Casinos properties was recently donated to Three Square Food Bank. Items included over 3,000 dozen eggs, 2,800 gallons of orange juice, 1,000 cases of fresh vegetables and more. Station Casinos also donated more than 200 gallons of milk and a variety of bakery items to several local charities, including the Salvation Army and Share Village. The company also partnered with Three Square to distribute food at its Sunset Station, Boulder Station and Palace Station parking lots to those in need.
Free haircut services for first responders
Barbers at Diesel Barbershop, 7175 W. Lake Mead Blvd., are offering haircuts, shaves and other services to first responders for free. For an appointment, call 725-251-1700.
Teachers to parade for students
Thomas O’Roarke Elementary School teachers have organized a parade for their students starting at noon Wednesday. Joined by Nevada Highway Patrol cars, teachers in their own vehicles will travel around the neighborhoods of their students starting at noon. The parade will begin from the northwest school located at 8455 O’Hare Ave.
Drai’s Las Vegas donates food and water to Share Village
A 30-day supply of food and water was recently donated to Share Village through Drai’s Las Vegas’ Drai’s Cares program. The donations from Drai’s Beachclub restaurant, along with 40 cases of water from Oxigen Water, will aid the nonprofit as it assists veterans and local community members in need.
Golden Entertainment, Inc. donates perishable food
Golden Entertainment’s casinos recently donated dairy products, bread and produce to Casa de Luz in downtown Las Vegas and Food for Families food bank in Bullhead City, Arizona. The corporation’s casino-resorts include The Strat, Arizona Charlie’s Decatur, Arizona Charlie’s Boulder and Laughlin’s Aquarius Casino Resort, Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino Resort and Edgewater Hotel & Casino Resort.
State senator offers to help family with groceries
Carol Patton called into State Sen. Scott Hammond’s Friday tele-town hall meeting hoping to push for state intervention against shoppers hoarding groceries.
Her husband has a number of health problems that would make him more susceptible to COVID-19 complications. Both are seniors, and while Patton is healthy enough to gather supplies, she does not want to risk exposure for her husband by making multiple trips.
“If I brought home the virus, and my husband got it, he would not survive,” Patton said.
There wasn’t an immediate answer for her question, but she was quite surprised to receive a possible solution to her problem: Hammond emailed her the next day offering to personally do her shopping for her and hand-deliver the groceries. She need only give him a list.
“The way a lot of politicians act right now is disgusting,” said Patton, who describes herself as Democrat who votes independently. Hammond is a Republican. “But to have a politician really care about his constituents vs. keeping his or her job — it’s refreshing,” she added. “This is the way politics needs to be.”
Patton did not take Hammond up on his offer, as she learned her local Trader Joe’s had just received a large shipment of the essentials. But she said she was touched by her senator’s kindness and generosity.
Hammond was reluctant to take any sort of public credit for the gesture, saying it was important for him and his family to help out whenever possible without any thought of publicity.
He is hosting a series of similar town halls this week, which he said allows elected officials to pass the concerns of everyday Nevadans on to the governor’s office during the crisis.
“From Oct. 1 to now this — a lot of things have happened in the last few years,” Hammond said. “The only thing you care about is making sure the community you live in grows stronger. You go through this adversity together, you find out what you’re made of and you grow together.”
MGM donates $1M to employee relief fund
MGM Resorts International announced an array of initiatives Monday that are intended to support those affected economically by the coronavirus pandemic, including a $1 million crisis and disaster relief pledge into an employee emergency grant fund and the donation of the equivalent of 400,000 meals across the United States.
The MGM Resorts Emergency Relief Fund provides employees and their immediate families with short-term relief in making payments or meeting obligations during unexpected hardships. MGM Resorts’ $1 million pledge will provide expanded coverage for the fund to assist full-time employees, on-call employees and those facing layoff, separation or furlough.
“As we confront extraordinary events and an unprecedented global pandemic crisis, we know that this is an extremely challenging and uncertain time for many of our employees, their families, friends and neighbors and we are committed to help those in need,” Bill Hornbuckle, acting CEO and President of MGM Resorts International said, according to a release.
Sahara donates groceries to 500 employees, food bank
Sahara Las Vegas hosted a team member food distribution event on Thursday. The resort and casino invited employees to receive complimentary bags of groceries, including milk, eggs, cheese, beverages, and fresh fruits and vegetables, in support of those affected by the mandatory closures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 500 employees received over 15 pallets of supplies.
Leftover food was donated to Three Square food bank to support its Emergency Food Distribution Strategy.
Restaurants offering free food with no purchase necessary
Founders Coffee, 6410 S. Durango Drive, is offering a free drip coffee to all first responders.
Scroll down to see more restaurants that are donating meals.
Tao Group donates ponchos to UMC
Usually, they protect against the rain. But the 800 ponchos that Tao Group Hospitality provided to University Medical Center Sunday will help to protect medical staff against things way scarier than a few water droplets.
The donation was prompted by a San Diego cardiologist who reached out to Jason Strauss, Tao Group Hositality partner.
The cardiologist said his hospital “had no supplies to protect his (medical) team, and he was calling everybody and anybody to see if anyone had anything to protect his people’s clothing — goggles, masks and so forth,” Strauss said.
“He knew we, as a nightlife restaurant team, have events, and that some of our stuff is outside and maybe we had rain gear. So we jumped into action.”
It turned out that Tao had 800 ponchos to spare, but getting them to San Diego wouldn’t be possible. So, Strauss said, the physician “put us in touch with UMC.”
Strauss dropped off the ponchos Sunday afternoon, and “they were beyond excited to have them,” Strauss said.
Now, Strauss said, “we’re going to our warehouse and see what else we can find, and try to find more equipment that can be used for our first responders.”
Restaurant issues bartender challenge
Like many Southern Nevada restaurants, Sparrow + Wolf, 4480 Spring Mountain Road, is closed for now. But the restaurant has issued a social media challenge that will help to keep area bartenders’ skills in tune while also offering thanks to first responders.
In a video posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Sparrow + Wolf says that for every cocktail video uploaded to Instagram with the #sparrowandwolfchallenge hashtag, it will donate one meal to a first responder.
The restaurant has set a goal of 2,000 meals.
“While we are all staying at home to flatten the curve, more than 30,000 EMTs, nurses, paramedics, doctors, police officers and firefighters are on the front line fighting this so we can all return back to normal,” the restaurant adds.
“Stay safe, stay home. Let’s show our first responders some love while doing what we love!”
Program matches seniors and volunteers
A Las Vegas woman and her grandmother have created a program that matches housebound seniors with volunteers who can keep in touch with them.
Support a Senior (supportlvseniors.com) is the brainchild of Alexis Baranoff, who writes on the program’s web site that it addresses how difficult social distancing can be for seniors.
Last week, two nights after Las Vegas essentially shut down, “my grandmother, Nicky and I were talking about how I wouldn’t be able to visit her for at least a month,” Baranoff writes.
“We found solace in the promise of daily phone calls. We then wondered how hopeless this situation may seem for senior citizens who live in nursing homes and assisted living residences.”
“Our fellow Las Vegans within these homes are currently on strict lockdown, scared for their lives,” Baranoff writes. “Some of these seniors don’t have family to communicate with during this time.”
Through the web site, which launched Saturday, both seniors and prospective volunteers can sign up for a match, then keep in touch with one another through letters, phone calls, Skype or FaceTime.
As Baranoff puts it: “Let’s put a face to the people we are trying to protect through social distancing.”
Family visits beloved senior outside window
Every morning, 91-year-old Jan Swanson gets in her car and drives the 20 minutes from Summerlin to the assisted living facility where her husband of 74 years lives.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., she visits with Mel Swanson at Legacy House Southern Hills where he receives memory care.
Because seniors with underlying conditions are especially vulnerable to exposure of COVID-19, the facility has prohibited visitors from entering — meaning Jan Swanson hasn’t seen her husband in more than a week.
“She’s been wanting to see him so I told her ‘okay, we’re making signs’ and I called the home and told them to wheel him over to a window,” said their daughter Barb Lakin.
Lakin, her mother and her sister Judy Swanson met Mel Swanson outside a window and displayed cardboard signs that read, “We love you Dad” and “Gram’s OK.”
“I made signs and went with my grandson, Mel’s great-grandson, yesterday” says Lakin. “He kept crying because he hadn’t seen anyone in a week. He felt like he was just going to die in there.”
Lakin says the family will start making visits to her grandfather’s window every day or so until it is safe for them to see each other in person again.
“This is how we survive this crazy time,” says Lakin. “It was sweet. He was smiling. I think if he knows we’ll come back every other day, he’ll be okay.”
Art project helps artists process pandemic
While the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV is closed, Executive Director Alisha Kerlin has launched a 30-day art challenge to encourage local artists to engage with their feelings and flex their creative muscles.
The “A Drawing a Day Keeps the Pandemic Away” community event invites anyone to create an artwork that relates to the daily prompt and submit it on Instagram with the tags @unlvmuseum and #pandemicdrawing.
Today’s prompt is “Draw a place you have always wanted to visit: real or imaginary.”
YMCA launches ‘senior buddy’ program
The YMCA of Southern Nevada is creating a new initiative to help vulnerable seniors feel connected and cared about.
Understanding that this is a confusing and uncertain time, the Senior Outreach Initiative aims to foster a sense of “staying connected.”
In the coming weeks, Y staff, members and volunteers will be assigned a “Senior Buddy,” chosen from the existing Y membership base, to check in with on a frequent basis.
Senior members who are interested in participating in the initiative will receive frequent phone calls, texts messages, FaceTime or Skype calls and emails from a Y staff member or volunteer.
The “wellness checks” will serve as a reminder to active older adults that the Y will emotionally support them during the closure, and will be there in the case that any needs arise. Volunteers will check on seniors’ general welfare and note any items or resources that senior members may need.
Company donates billboards to encourage social distancing
A Las Vegas outdoor company is donating its services to remind people in Southern Nevada about the importance of social distancing.
Kre8 Media Outdoor Advertising has partnered with the Nevada Governor’s Office to offer five digital mobile billboards to explain preventive measures to mass audiences.
The geo-targeted units include the following messages: “Stay Home – Save Lives,” “Stay Home for Nevada” and “Prepare, Don’t Panic.” The spots will run 10 hours per day through Monday.
“We are completely shut down as a business yet running these advertisements to play our part during this time of need,” Jeremie Watkins, managing partner and co-founder of Kre8 Media Outdoor Advertising, said in a statement. “By volunteering my company’s services, I can put some hardworking employees back to work who were previously furloughed. Out-of-home advertising can educate people who may be tempted to gather in large groups over the weekend. I encourage others in outdoor advertising to work with government agencies to do their part to deploy appropriate messaging to the general public. We are all in this together.”
The Strat donates food in downtown Las Vegas
Golden Entertainment’s casinos, including The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod, Arizona Charlie’s Decatur and Arizona Charlie’s Boulder in Las Vegas donated their perishable food to Casa de Luz in Downtown Las Vegas. Arizona casinos donated to Food for Families food bank in Bullhead City, Arizona.
The food, which includes dairy products, breads and produce, such as lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus, squash, onions and potatoes, is being given to people in need.
Face mask donation
As coronavirus spreads globally and across the U.S., hospitals have encountered shortages of protective equipment including masks.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. moved to help address that shortage in the Las Vegas Valley by donating 100,000 face masks to local health care workers and 5,000 to the Metropolitan Police Department, a company spokesman said Friday.
The protective medical equipment is in town and will be distributed as quickly as possible, he said. The department will receive N95 respirator masks, and the health care workers will receive surgical masks, Reese said.
“This is one more way we can try to help the community in this challenging time,” company spokesman Ron Reese said.
Earlier this week Sands announced it was donating $250,000 to help local organizations including Three Square, Communities in Schools and Share Village Las Vegas.
LGBTQ Center to distribute food on Saturday
The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada will be distributing food to those in need on Saturday. Equality Nevada has arranged for four truckloads of food from OYO Las Vegas and Three Square Food Bank to be delivered to The Center, 401 S. Maryland Pkwy, in the morning. Lines will open at 11 a.m., and be metered to assure proper social distancing. Those in need are asked to bring their own bags or boxes, and to understand that this is not a social gathering, and there will be no services available inside The Center.
Ethel M wants to thank some heroes
Americans are pulling together as we face COVID-19, and Ethel M wants to say thank you, in a very sweet way. The Nevada-based craft chocolate division of Mars Inc. is asking its Instagram and Facebook followers “to tag all selfless superheroes working for a hospital, pharmacy, trucking company, school, grocery store, restaurant, sanitation company or anywhere else that is keeping America moving.” They’ll then randomly select 200 of those heroes to receive a “thank you” chocolate care package.
“We know it’s a small token of appreciation for the many sacrifices they are making right now, but we hope it will show them how much they are valued and offer a little comfort,” says Elthel M’s Lisa Vannerson.
Golden Knights launch book club for fans missing hockey
What’s a Golden Knights fan to do when there’s no hockey to watch? Read about it, of course. That’s apparently the theory behind the new, digital #VGKBookClub, which is being organized by the team.
“During these unprecedented times of isolation, the Golden Knights hope to create a sense of community through this initiative,” the team explains in a press release announcing the plan.
Members of the VGK community are being encouraged read “The Game,” by former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, starting on Wednesday March 25, and to join the #VGKBookClub Facebook group. A timeline for reading the book will be announced later, “to help participants stay on track and hold each other accountable.” Then, as they read, they’ll be asked to share their thoughts in that group, and on other social media platforms, using the hashtag #VGKBookClub.
M Resort distributes surplus food to employees
Managers from the M Resort spent several hours on Friday distributing surplus perishable food to employees.
The company sent a letter to its team members on Thursday announcing that the items, which were on hand when Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a 30-day statewide casino closure on Tuesday, would be given away to anyone with an M Resort ID badge. On Friday, managers met employees on the loading dock with pre-selected boxes of food, which they placed into the trunks of the members’ cars to maintain proper social distancing.
A total of about 10,000 eggs, 400 melons, 2,000 gallons of milk and cream, 100 servings of soy and almond milk, 4,000 pounds of produce, 400 servings of yogurt and 200 gallons of juice were distributed over the course of the day.
Casinos donate food to community agencies
When Las Vegas resorts closed this week, they were in possession of massive food inventories. In the days since, many have been scrambling to make sure that perishable items on their properties don’t go to waste, particularly at a time when many in the valley are facing increased financial pressures and some grocery stores are having difficulties keeping shelves stocked.
MGM Resorts International is still finding ways to distribute the inventory from its Las Vegas properties. As of 1 p.m. Friday, it says more than 229,000 pounds had been distributed. On Friday afternoon, company chefs gathered at Bellagio to load even more food into trucks, which were set to be delivered to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for distribution.
Caesars Entertainment reports that over two days it has donated 116 pallets of perishable items such as produce, eggs and dairy products to Three Square food bank. An additional 10 pallets were donated by the company to City Impact Foundation & Macedonia Outreach Social Enrichment Services (MOSES), Share Village (formerly Veterans Village) and Las Vegas Rescue Mission, with an additional 14 delivered to Henderson’s Parks and Recreation Emergency Operations Center.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas tells us that, along with its restaurant partners, they’ve provided 10 pallets of food to Three Square, primarily fresh produce and dairy products.
The South Point estimates its contribution to Three Square this week at around $30,000 worth of food and produce.
Wynn and Encore representatives report distribution of 96,000 pounds of food this week.
Perhaps more importantly, Three Square is wasting no time getting the food they’re receiving into the hands of those in need. Over a three-hour period Friday morning, the food bank delivered three truckloads of food to each of five school sites throughout the valley, and another two truckloads to a sixth — a substantial portion of which was donated within the last 36 hours. (A truck carries about 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of food).
“That’s a lot of food!” Three Square Chief Operating Officer Larry Scott says.
That food was then broken down into 40-pound family packs delivered to the trunks of cars as those in need drove up to the site, to maintain proper social distancing between those distributing the food and those receiving it.
Kids’ martial arts school gives classes online
When Jocelyne Uy learned that her daughter’s martial arts studio may need to close, she was worried about the disruption to her 11-year-old’s routine and instruction.
“I teach high school, so I know the importance of keeping kids’ schedules consistent and maintaining those expectations,” Uy says. “She usually goes to the school every day.”
Her daughter has a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do and has practiced at Victory Arts Las Vegas.
To accommodate the closure, the school has set up a Zoom video platform for all the families so that students can take their scheduled classes by video chat.
“I was so skeptical it would work,” Uy says. “But 18 kids logged on to the last black belt class. The instructor does the same class in the studio and watches the kids at home.”
Uy’s daughter has been able to take her class every day in the living room, with a laptop balanced on the coffee table.
“They’ve done an awesome job,” says Uy. “I’m happy my kid has that opportunity.”
Free doughnuts for first responders
As a thank you to first responders, Pinkbox Doughnuts is delivering free doughnuts every day to Valley Health System hospitals, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department area commands, Clark County Fire Department stations, all Henderson and North Las Vegas police and fire stations, major hospitals throughout the Las Vegas Valley and Share Village, formerly Veterans Village.
“We understand our first responders are under a lot of pressure and working endless hours to help our community combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Judith Siegel, owner of Pinkbox. “These doughnuts are a small token of our appreciation for all the time, energy and efforts local first responders are putting in every day to keep us all safe. We salute them for their service.”
Facebook friends donate $50 to each other, total $700
Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Chani Leavitt put out a call on her Facebook page, asking for participation from people who are in need of $50 and people who are able to donate $50.
The rules are simple. If someone has fallen on hard times due to coronavirus-related business closures, they need only comment with their handle for Venmo or another money-transfer app. No other explanation is expected.
If someone is able to fulfill the request, the donor will comment “I got you.”
Less than a day after launching the micro-fundraiser, Leavitt’s friends, friends of friends and total strangers have donated over $700.
New restaurants offering free food with no purchase necessary
Blume, 3145 St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, is offering free food for kids 12 and younger from 3 p.m. to closing: buttered noodles, cheeseburger and fries, chicken tender and fries or grilled cheese and fries. The restaurant is also free coffee to first responders and will donate to the homeless for every ten meal preps that are purchased.
Grabbagreen, 9440 W Sahara Ave, Suite 180, will give away one free menu item per person per day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Kaiseki Yuzu, 3900 Spring Mountain Rd #A5, will be offering more free bento box lunches today, tomorrow and Saturday. There will be 30 available per day, distributed from Noon to 3:00 to those who call ahead to reserve them. To put your name on the list, call the restaurant at 702-778-8889. —Al Mancini
Tomorrow, Mothership Coffee Roasters at Fergusons Downtown will offer Free Coffee Friday for locals recently displaced, furloughed or underemployed. To get the complimentary drip coffee, customers can order through the Toast app, at mothershipcoffee.com or call it in to 725-735-4539. A barista will be stationed at the main gate for curbside pickup.
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