Everyone was talking about COVID-19 in March.
But when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations rolled around, Bernie Fechtel knew there was trouble.
Fechtel graduated with a bachelor’s in finance and general business in 1980, and now he is president of Fechtel Beverage & Sales in Jefferson City, Missouri.
“Turnout was about 10% of what it would normally be. We felt this is really going to wreck the bar and restaurant business if this keeps up,” Fechtel said.
Donating to make a difference
So, Fechtel teamed up with the United Way of Central Missouri to establish a fund to help food-service workers. He donated $20,000 to get started.
“We wanted to use an agency that had a good reputation, but also wanted to transfer the privacy to them. The folks that would apply for these grants would be our customers or folks we call on every day. We wanted that information to be totally private so we wouldn’t have any idea who was applying for the grants,” he said.
Anyone could contribute to the fund, and donations poured in— more than $60,000.
Most waitstaff earn less than minimum wage and rely on tips.
“That particular industry got hit harder than others,” Fechtel said.
Food-service employees in a nine-county area were able to apply for the assistance and more than $40,000 has been paid out. Money was paid directly to creditors, not workers. Workers can apply twice, so Fechtel expects more applications.
“We are preparing for another wave,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being part of the fabric of this community and we wanted to give back.”