Southern Smoke Foundation provides more than $400K to unemployed hospitality workers

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) -- On March 24, the Southern Smoke Foundation had received 3,500 applications from hospitality workers laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

That number has grown to 17,000 in just a few weeks, but the foundation is growing thanks to a generous contribution from the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation, a New York-based organization.

That foundation vowed to give half of its fundraising to Southern Smoke and has already given them $1 million since the partnership was announced three weeks ago.

"The money is being handed out," said Shepherd.

They've given out over $400,000 and it's been a big help to many in the industry.

"It was such a blessing," said Abreanne Torres-Ramirez, a furloughed server at Perry's. "I can just relax a little bit now, instead of having to stress out in front of my daughter."

Torres-Ramirez says Southern Smoke was able to pay her rent, car note and insurance bill. The foundation has also been able to hire furloughed restaurant workers to assist in processing applications. Southern Smoke originally had "two-and-a-half" employees, but have grown to 30 employees since the outbreak hit. They say they're now to the point that they're able to process $72,000 in applications per day.

"It's giving people a chance to get back to work," said Shepherd. "Having restaurant folks helping with this gives a better view of the problem people are having."

Southern Smoke has been able to distribute over $2 million since it's inception in 2015. Visit SouthernSmoke.org for more information.
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