Among those deeply affected by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality workers all across the country have been deeply impacted. With more than 110,000 or 17% of restaurants being forced to close, many workers are finding themselves jobless and facing financial difficulties. Sadly, unemployment for this sector of our economy is faced with the highest unemployment in the country with closings occurring daily and apparently no real light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
On a local level, Jerry Dicecco, chef and owner of Jerry & The Mermaid in Riverhead, has partnered with Branches Long Island (BLI), to raise $100,000 for 500 hospitality workers and their families.
Further explaining, "The Mermaid Project is my baby. I wanted to help give back to the workers from my industry (restaurant, hotels and catering) that I feel have been unjustifiably wrecked from this pandemic. The data points from NYS prove that the biggest contributor to the spread of this virus comes from 'living room' spread with a small percentage traced back to restaurants and bars. Therefore, I feel terrible for all the out of work hospitality staff that did nothing to deserve this."
Continuing, Dicecco relayed, "Charitable contributions and helping others is in my blood and restaurant's history. My father, Jerry Senior, was the Chairman of the Long Island Bartenders Ball and president of the Suffolk Restaurant Association for over 20 years. Through these organizations he helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for various causes and this is me following in his footsteps."
Founded in 2019 by Samantha Morales, BLI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization "run by volunteers who are determined to make a difference on Long Island," and who dedicate themselves to providing "necessities to those in need, advocate for those who may not have a voice and empower those who need to be uplifted in a time of crisis."
BLI is releasing a Google document shortly and will be in charge of vetting the families who need help. It is still uncertain exactly what Long Island locations will receive the most assistance - until return surveys are expected.
What is your favorite thing about a restaurant? Well, for many it is the food of course, along with the ambience that hospitality workers provide! So both Dicecco and BLI are doing just that - coordinating first and foremost to provide meals to local hospitality workers and their families, and create an ambience of comfort and support for those in need.
"Food distribution will primarily happen from Jerry & The Mermaid. We are preparing all the food here and are hoping most families will be able to pick from this location. If it's more convenient, we will work out a secondary distribution site at BLI," added Dicecco.
Commenting on his own employees, Dicecco revealed, "We are lucky to say our employees faired better than most restaurants and have been able to keep their jobs. Hours may be slightly less, but we are still working!"
"We are proud to say that we have raised nearly $30,000 in less than two weeks! My thoughts and prayers go out to the hospitality staff and their families who are suffering at this time because of jobs lost or hours cut. We hope that our initiative helps out the families in this time of need and come spring/summer we will all be working full time again when we can resume outdoor dining," Dicecco concluded.
So remember those who have made your dining experiences enjoyable, and if you would like to donate go to themermaidproject.org
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.