Like so many people across the Charleston area, Shana Swain was forced by Hurricane Dorian to make two extra trips to the grocery store. First, she had to shop for supplies to see her two young children through the storm. Then she had to return to the supermarket days later to replenish her refrigerator after food spoiled during a power outage.
For Swain, a bartender at Zen Asian Fusion, the cost of the natural disaster was compounded by the income lost when Zen was also without power. Zen traditionally closes only on Thanksgiving, but the West Ashley restaurant was knocked out of commission for two days.
Swain was supposed to work on Friday, a shift which typically yields $200 to $350.
“I’m a food-and-beverage lifer, so when these times come about, we understand: If you don’t work, you don’t get paid,” Swain says. “We receive nothing.”
At least, that’s how it usually goes.
But Giving Kitchen, an Atlanta-based nonprofit providing emergency assistance to food service workers, this week announced a relief fund for those in Georgia and South Carolina who can demonstrate they’re in need of financial help because of Hurricane Dorian. Giving Kitchen is using the fund, underwritten by an Episcopal Relief and Development grant arranged by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, to purchase grocery store gift cards in amounts ranging from $50 to $500.
According to Giving Kitchen Executive Director Bryan Schroeder, the group anticipates distributing cards to 500 people.
“It really is a great opportunity to do a little bit of good work,” Schroeder says.
When Swain learned about the fund through Facebook, she wasn’t familiar with Giving Kitchen, which earlier this year received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation. But she was encouraged by the application form, which she describes as “the same as any grant application” and easy to complete. She answered a few questions about her work, and uploaded receipts and social media posts showing that Zen was closed.
Based on her need, Swain received a $450 card.
“I’m so grateful,” she says. “It’s a bill I don’t have now. I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of emotional. What a gift.”
The Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund marks Giving Kitchen’s first foray into South Carolina, but Schroeder says he hopes it lays the groundwork for future initiatives.
“We have so many great connections to South Carolina, and the food community in Charleston is very similar to Atlanta in a lot of meaningful ways,” he says.
Currently, Giving Kitchen is in the midst of a strategic planning process which will determine how and when Giving Kitchen expands its network. If the organization ends up formalizing a relationship with the Charleston restaurant community, Swain has already offered to volunteer.
To apply for relief through Giving Kitchen, go to thegivingkitchen.org/dorian. Gift cards will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.