Kierah Rigney, 14, packs strawberry water ice for essential workers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

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Surefire way to bring a moment of joy to workers on Philadelphia’s front lines? Cool, sweet scoops of water ice.

Staff at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania were treated to 500 servings of the quintessential Philly treat on Monday, thanks to Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice.

The donation from the West Philly shop, a cornerstone of the Cobbs Creek community, was the latest in a long line of contributions delivered to Penn employees since the coronavirus hit. For proprietor Siddiq Moore, the act of charity was also a way to celebrate Ramadan — not easy during quarantine.

“In the spirit of Ramadan, this is the time that we do extra charity, extra giving,” Moore told Billy Penn. “I’m extremely excited.”

Siddiq Moore, owner of Siddiq’s Water Ice (center) and Tory Wade, manager Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Each of the 10 units at the 34th and Spruce medical center accepted a box of 50 water ices: 25 strawberry daiquiri and 25 mango-lemonade. The desserts weren’t just for doctors and nurses; Moore budgeted enough water ice to also feed other essential workers, like maintenance staff, plus patients who are healthy enough to eat.

He also brought along a few kids from the neighborhood as assistants.

“You have to teach the kids this stuff — donation, charity, stuff like that,” Moore said. “When they see it, it becomes a part of them. That’s how you teach kids to volunteer.”

Siddiq’s Water Ice staff and volunteers pose with Penn nurses Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

The whole project was coordinated with Sakinah Wade, a clinical nurse at Penn who attends the same masjid as Moore. The two work closely in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood and have known each other for decades.

Wade works in Penn Hospital’s women’s health department. “It’s like a war in here,” said Wade, who has worked at Penn for 21 years. The Philly Health Department reported 973 patients with COVID-19 were being treated in city hospitals.

The many food donations definitely help, Wade said.

Containers of Siddiq’s mango water ice packed to go to essential workers Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

“Believe it or not, every day, it’s some form of restaurant or bakery donating something,” she said. “Through the coronavirus we’re all going to be fat. Thank god we get to run up and down the units, because we’re going to gain some pounds.”

When the chaos of the current moment has passed, she wants to find a way to properly express their gratitude.

“I’m just hoping we can remember to take pictures and post them, so we can remember to give a nice thank you to everybody,” Wade said. “Everything from smallest to the biggest thing — [it] never goes unnoticed.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...