About one year ago, Pay It Forward Charleston was born out of a desire to help the Charleston food and beverage community, as well as local farmers and purveyors, who were struggling due to COVID layoffs and a decline in business.
Thanks in large part to a partnership with Feed the Need Charleston, the group of volunteers, led by a volunteer team from Butcher & Bee, raised over $100,000 dollars to keep the initiative running for a total of 6 months. The original goal? Deliver bags of provisions to out-of-work food and beverage community members. This not only put food into hands but also kept local farmers and food-producers selling their product, as normal buyers shuttered their doors or lessened orders in response to the growing pandemic. In total, the group delivered on their promise and distributed 11,250 bags of groceries (which included 11,250 dozen eggs from Storey Farms).
As the community reopened, many grocery recipients returned to work and business picked back up. Through the remainder of 2020 Pay It Forward Charleston looked toward the future.
“What we realized was that emergency services were needed well beyond COVID,” Tara Pate, a founding member of the Pay It Forward Charleston team who now serves as the organization’s Marketing and Events Committee Chair, said. “Hurricanes are expected every fall here in Charleston. Unfortunately, we also saw firsthand how a single missed paycheck can affect our team members. We did the best we could with food but we knew we could do more.”
With a desire to grow programming beyond provision bags, the organization expanded its focus to include current grant-giving efforts. As of January 2021, Pay It Forward Charleston has received official 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status, hired an executive director, filled the board and is looking to distribute the organization’s first grants. Focused on fundraising to support the distribution of $100,000 in grants in 2021, the team has hit the ground running.
“$100,000 was a goal set with intention,” Executive Director Carrie Larson said. “This commitment aims to make a measurable impact for those in the f&b community facing unforeseen challenges. When a medical setback leaves a community member short of making their rent or a weather catastrophe shuts things down and leaves folks in need of a hot meal, Pay It Forward Charleston will be positioned to offer assistance,”
Pay It Forward Charleston is kicking off 2021 with community support funds remaining from their provision efforts, as well as gifts and commitments from community leaders. Pay It Forward Charleston is ready to “serve those who serve us” with Home Team BBQ’s Major Gift of $10,000, a commitment from the Indigo Road Hospitality Group of $25,000 in 2021, and selection as the beneficiary of upcoming event “Cheers, Charleston” with the Hall Management Group, expected to bring in $2,500 for the organization.
“We started Pay It Forward Charleston to support our food and beverage community and we had no idea just how many restaurants would step up and donate,” Pate said. “The fact that three locally-based and well-respected restaurant groups are setting the stage for us in 2021 says a lot about the integrity of our community as well as our mission. Their willingness to offer a hand up to those in need is truly remarkable. I am blown away by how a grieving industry has so generously looked outward and I am excited to see the impact we can make together.”
How Individual Grants work: To qualify for emergency relief funding, applicants must have worked in the Charleston food and beverage industry for a minimum of 6 months and have averaged at least 30 hours per week. Every applicant must show proof of such employment, so please have paycheck stubs and/or W2s available. Unfortunately, they are unable to make any exceptions. Examples of need include: medical setbacks, a car accident, weather catastrophes, family support assistance, and mental health needs.
To apply for a grant: https://payitforwardcharleston.org/apply
Donate to Pay It Forward Charleston: https://payitforwardcharleston.org/donate
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