By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — One Pennsylvania woman has found a way to pay it forward for out-of-work restaurant workers in her community by connecting strangers to servers in need.
Erin Matuch told ABC News’ Good Morning America she got the idea to start the Facebook group “Adopt a Server/Bartender Allegheny County,” after seeing a similar restaurant worker relief program in another state.
“The page allows servers or bartenders, really anybody in the restaurant industry, to post things that they need during this time while they’re not working,” she explained. “I looked up to see if we had anything like it, and we didn’t, so immediately, I just created it.”
While the page is still growing and gaining support, Matuch, who worked as a server through college, said there was an influx of interest around Christmastime.
“It’s just amazing the amount of people who have helped — and the generosity that’s going on right now,” she said.
“I had one lady who donated boxes of food with $40 gift cards to our local grocery stores for a holiday meal. I’ve had people give $200 to multiple families. People do Instacart orders for people,” Matuch said.
Once people join the group, Matuch said she approves their posts from the servers and bartenders who haven’t gotten help yet, then tries to connect people directly.
“They post whatever they need, whether it’s an Amazon wishlist for household items they need — or they’ll put PayPals and emails for others to send giftcards and things like that. If somebody’s willing to help I allow it. I don’t really turn anyone down. It’s just such a difficult time for everyone,” she said.
“Just knowing what it’s like to be a server and having a weekend where you don’t make as much, I couldn’t imagine being off for this long of an amount of time,” she said. “There’s so many of them that are struggling. It’s heartbreaking and it’s not just as easy as just filing for unemployment. Maybe they make just a little bit too much [to not qualify] and still can’t make ends meet.”
Overall, Matuch said it’s been heartwarming to be on the side of the screen where she can constantly see the good deeds people are doing to contribute to her cause.
“I’m gonna keep it up and running as long as I need to,” she said, adding that even when dining restrictions ease on Jan. 4, the workers’ need for help won’t stop.
“There’s still bills to be paid, kids to be fed. And I’ve actually encouraged people from other states that have reached out to start their own group in their area and I’ll help them if they need it. Hopefully we can get more groups like this going,” she said.
Matuch said she has directly helped upward of 20 restaurant workers and even more from others who contact those in need from posts within the group.
Her big takeaway from launching this effort that she hopes others take to heart is to “pay it forward when you can.”
“I just encourage people to be generous, help others, we are all in this together,” she said.
Other members in the community have posted about free meal distributions, produce and food giveaways and other local resources to help those in the community who have been financially impacted due to COVID-19.
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