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Lowcountry Strong: Non-profits join in push to help struggling food and beverage workers

Updated: May. 28, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While restaurants in the Lowcountry are slowly reopening, food and beverage (F&B) workers are still very much in need.

When the governor ordered restaurants shift to take-out only in March, many had to downsize or close.

In March, the organizations Pay it Forward and Feed the Need joined together to support F&B workers who were out of work. Recently, the non-profits Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach and Tricounty Family Ministries joined in the push to help those in need by including F&B workers in their emergency food services.

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach will serve people in downtown Charleston at their Neighborhood House location and will serve people on James, Johns and Wadmalaw islands at their outreach location on Johns Island. Tricounty Family Ministries will serve those in the North Charleston and surrounding areas.

So far, they have served about 400 bags of fresh produce each week.

“It’s allowed us to broaden our reach," Director of Outreach and Education for Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Ryan Vrba said. "F&B workers were never a group we targeted, but we’re always here to help those in need... right now they’re certainly in need.”

General Manager at Butcher & Bee, Drisana Lamb, helped start the program and said her employees were her inspiration.

“It was incredible that we all came together so quickly and were able to get the systems in place to make this happen," she added. Her restaurant was closed for eight weeks and has now reopened the patio. She is proud of the partnership and the $100,000 raised.

“It’s been huge and very gratifying to see this,” she added. So far, they’ve given out about 5,600 bags and still have about 3,500 to go.

“As we continue to scale our operations and restaurants begin to open back up we knew we needed to find new points of distribution for our Pay it Forward Charleston grocery bags. Tricounty Family Ministries and Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach were quick to offer help,” Director of Marketing for Butcher & Bee Kara Pate said.

“We are committed, as always, to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us receive the critical support they need to not fall behind. Teaming up with these extraordinary groups helps local farmers, eliminates potential waste and makes a bigger impact on the community where we live, work and play," Executive Director of Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Ericka Plater said.

“The food and beverage industry has been so generous in providing meals for our neighbors in need for so many years. We’re glad to be part of the effort to support them during these uncertain times,” Executive Director of Tricounty Family Ministries Kara Stewart said.

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach service times:

  • The Outreach – 1864 Brownswood Rd., Johns Island: Mon. – Thurs. / 10:00am – 1:30pm.
  • Neighborhood House – 79 America St., Charleston: Mon. – Thurs. / 8:30am – 11:30am.

Tricounty Family Ministries service times:

  • 2105 Cosgrove Ave., North Charleston: Weds. / 11:00am - 1:00pm.

Food and beverage workers in need of a grocery bag can go to: https://bit.ly/FreeBagCHS

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