South Floridians, accustomed to natural disasters like hurricanes, are using all their recovery skills — and more — to help the multitudes of people who are without jobs, are short on food or just need someone to turn to during the coronavirus pandemic.
They’re creating funds, making meals, hiring laid-off employees, and providing much-needed financial support to the crush of people who’ve lost their livelihoods, from bank tellers to bartenders to wait staffs to hotel and cruise workers and many more.
The Miami Dolphins, for instance, pledged $500,000 to help support critical needs for the elderly and youth in the community, including for school meal programs for Broward County Public Schools and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The hometown football team is also supporting relief efforts led by churches in Miami Gardens, and assisting Feeding South Florida, according to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
AT&T also pledged to waive any domestic wireless plan usage fees that are associated with data, voice or text overages that any wireless customer incurs because of economic hardship related to COVID-19, the chamber said.
Here’s how some other South Floridians are helping during the crisis:
Restaurant industry relief efforts
▪ Estefan Enterprises tapped into the “Get on Your Feet” sentiment popularized in song and stage by partnering with CVS Health to match 300 of its employees from the family’s restaurants in South Florida, Orlando and Vero Beach with immediate employment.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan own Estefan Kitchen in the Miami Design District and in Orlando, Larios on the Beach on Ocean Drive, The Wave at Costa d’ Este in Vero Beach and the Cardozo South Beach hotel. All have been temporarily closed with the exception of take-out and delivery at its restaurant locations.
That means hundreds of displaced workers who now have been screened by CVS after the healthcare company announced plans to hire 50,000 people in various roles during the pandemic.
“Team members at Estefan Enterprises are a ready and well-trained workforce, and we can see them helping us address the urgent and significant demands of this community,” Ahmed Velez, region director for CVS Health, said in a statement.
“The hiring of our employees at CVS Health is temporary in order to get them through these times of uncertainty,” Frank Amadeo, president of Estefan Enterprises, told the Miami Herald. “Once we are able to reopen, they will all be invited back to work with us. We have a great team that served our restaurants and hotels for many years and we can’t wait for the moment that we are able to reopen.”
Last summer, Estefan Kitchen in the Design District hosted a tribute to Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria.
“We’ve all been faced with making very difficult and unfathomable decisions as we navigate our way through this crisis. Gloria and I are doing everything in our power to find opportunities for our employees and we are very grateful to CVS Health for partnering with our companies,” Emilio Estefan said in a statement.
▪ One of the hardest adjustments in social distancing is skipping the regular restaurant visit. Now, imagine how difficult it has been for the thousands of displaced workers who greeted you, sat you, set the plates before you and prepared your meals.
Brad Kilgore, owner of four Miami restaurants, including Wynwood’s Alter, partnered with Miami real estate broker Felix Bendersky to create a fund dedicated to helping displaced restaurant employees.
The Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund aims to deliver $250 grants to full-time Miami-Dade employees who have been out of work since governments ordered restaurant dining rooms closed to help flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus.
Organizations that have hopped on board include Miami Beach’s Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company, Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, Michelle Bernstein of La Trova, Zak H. Stern of Zak the Baker, & F+B Hospitality Brokerage.
You can donate at www.gofundme.com/f/miamirestaurantemployeerelieffund
▪ The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival launched the SOBEWFF & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund to provide immediate financial support to independently owned and operated restaurants and bars impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
The fund will provide grants to food establishments that had to temporarily cease operations, lay off employees, or found its business severely diminished when they complied with locally mandated closure orders.
“Financial support will enable those owners to provide continuity of compensation and other benefits to employees who have been furloughed, laid off or whose incomes have been significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” organizers said on the SOBEWFF website.
The funds, held and raised by the FIU Foundation, will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Apply online at sobewff.org/industry-relief-form/.
▪ Marcus Samuelsson, owner of Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant, was set to open a new restaurant in Overtown, but the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on that plan. So, he’s lent his staff to Chef José Andrés’ volunteer staff to cook meals for those out of work.
Andrés’ World Central Kitchen nonprofit organization served more than 3 million meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. His staff is at it again during this crisis but with help from the Red Rooster chefs. The now larger team will create packaged meals for workers laid off from Miami’s food and restaurant industry. No one will be turned away.
▪ Sedano’s Supermarket and the Versailles restaurant partnered to employ up to 400 full- and part-time workers who were laid off from Versailles, La Carreta and the Valls Group’s 12 other restaurants.
“Our families have known each other for years. We’re friends. So it’s a natural fit,” Valls Group president Felipe Valls told the Miami Herald.
As with the Estefans, the Valls plan to bring back their restaurant staffers once the eateries can reopen.
“We’re going to need them,” Valls said. “We want each of them to know that their jobs will be waiting for them once this crisis concludes.”
▪ United Way Miami in partnership with the Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald launched Operation Helping Hands to establish the Miami Pandemic Response Fund. You can donate via https://unitedwaymiami.org/ohh_covid19 or by calling 800-226-3320.
▪ The Miami Foundation created a Community Recovery Fund to help local nonprofits whose operations are affected by COVID-19. “This unprecedented time will define Greater Miami’s strength to tap even deeper into our shared spirit of caring, community and resilience,” the foundation said.
Miami Foundation seeded the fund with a $300,000 contribution to support local nonprofits with long-term recovery, resilience and financial stability, according to organizers. Funds will be granted to qualifying Miami-Dade-based nonprofits on a rolling basis, depending on how long fundraising continues.
Nonprofits in need of financial support or individuals, businesses, corporations or donors interested in contributing to the fundraising can visit miamifoundation.org/COVID19Response.
▪ Hands on Miami and Hands on Broward started a “Hands on at Home” program to help people participate in volunteer efforts from inside their own homes — which is where health officials want most of us to be for some time.
Some of the projects they suggest include sending handwritten or email letters to those in need; DIY craft projects; posting videos of yourself reading a children’s book to Facebook or Instagram.
Info is at www.handsonbroward.org/at-home
Helping hospital ER staffers
▪ Helping our healthcare providers. Hard to imagine a tougher business than healthcare at a time of crisis.
With that in mind, Ray Schnitzer, owner of South Beach’s 11th Street Diner, supplied meals for the Mount Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room staff on Wednesday, said Troy Wright, executive director of the Washington Avenue Business Improvement District in a release sent to the Miami Herald.
The diner, which has been home to fashion and Bee Gees video shoots, and was an iconic part of the area’s renaissance in the 1990s, is temporarily closed, of course. But, as Schnitzer said, “We are all here to help them because they are helping us, they are the ones we’re thanking.”
Adds Wright, “This act of kindness shows the resiliency, compassion, and level of appreciation he has for those working on the front line.”
▪ Florida International University and Baptist Health South Florida teamed to get 3D-printed face shields to medical professionals at Baptist’s hospitals as personal protective equipment has become scarce in the coronavirus pandemic.
Baptist Health has 11 hospitals and more than 150 urgent care centers and physician offices in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.
The first batch of 1,000 — made by FIU students and faculty — were delivered to the hospitals on Saturday, March 28.
“As a university we wanted to find a way to leverage the skills, talent and resources of our students, faculty and staff to help these hard-working heroes who are risking their lives to save ours,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg in a statement.
Feeding South Florida
▪ Feeding South Florida has launched a COVID-19 Response Fund to help support those in need during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties and provides “direct-service programs,” including benefits application assistance, access to its food pantry and home delivery for qualified individuals.
Those who require assistance can visit feedingsouthflorida.org/benefits-emergency-services/ to apply.
▪ King Jesus International Ministry is providing a community food pantry every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, drive-through style, at one of its warehouses at 13850 SW 143rd Ct., Suite #9 in Miami, said Sandy Pineda.
▪ Chabad of South Broward is reaching out to seniors, and others who are alone and needy — including those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. The Chabad has set up a task force to deliver “ Soups and Seders” and money for Pesach, or Passover, to many needy families.
▪ Oolite Arts , a Miami-based arts support group, created a fund to help Miami-Dade visual artists apply for up to $500 to help them deal with lost work and opportunities brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The arts are essential to Miami, and so are our artists. You can’t talk about Miami, you can’t experience Miami, without thinking of our cultural community. We need to make sure the people behind the art can live and work here year-round, and that includes during difficult times,” said Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts.
Free hospitality training
▪ Florida Atlantic University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program , within FAU’s College of Business, is offering a free certificate to industry workers and professionals who may be affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Boca Raton school usually charges $900 per participant for the program but is waiving its fee.
There will be a series of five online sessions in April over 15 hours to teach core components required for success in the hospitality industry. The sessions cover hospitality law, career competencies, marketing and revenue management, finance fundamentals and service excellence.
“Hospitality will always rebound, but this is the first global crisis where every hospitality segment was affected at the same time,” Peter Ricci, director of FAU’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, said in a release.