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SC restaurant fundraiser helping F&B workers, including 7 displaced by West Ashley fire

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a portion of proceeds from specialty menu items at 11 Charleston-area restaurants will be donated to Pay It Forward, a local charity that offers emergency assistance to members of the food and beverage industry.

Some of this funding will go to food and beverage workers who were displaced by the Feb. 7 fire at the Palms Apartments in West Ashley. The nonprofit has identified seven full-time F&B employees who “lost everything” in the blaze, said Executive Director Carrie Larson.

Officials are investigating the fire, which displaced 179 people from their homes. The powerful blaze destroyed five buildings and substantially damaged two others. No one was injured.

While the Pay It Forward Valentine’s Day benefit was already in the works in January, Larson anticipates an influx in donations following the fire will result in the organization doubling its funding goal for the month of February.

At the start of 2022, COVID-caused restaurant closures left hourly workers without wages for days and sometimes weeks. Contributions to Pay It Forward will supplement wages for some of these people along with F&B residents of the Palms Apartments who apply for a grant.

Pay It Forward funds are provided to workers who qualify for relief. Each application is reviewed individually, and funding is distributed on a case-by-case basis.

“The need for support within the F&B community is still incredibly high as folks recover from the recent COVID surge and deal with ongoing staffing crises,” Larson said. “Pay It Forward will continue to provide individual grants to all who qualify, but compounding events like this fire sure exacerbate the need for community fundraisers like this one."

The 11 restaurants participating in the Valentine's Day benefit are contributing a portion of proceeds or 100 percent of sales from specific menu items to Pay It Forward. Restaurant specials and availability vary, but each of the offerings at Kwei Fei, Babas on Meeting, goat. sheep. cow., Felix, Poogan’s Porch, Herd Provisions, Butcher & Bee, Dashi, Rebel Taqueria, Handy + Hot and Lenoir will be available Feb. 11-12. Local design firm M&M Woodworking is also contributing by donating 100 percent of proceeds from heart-shaped cutting boards purchased for Valentine’s Day.

"It really is a crazy time in our industry," said Herd Provisions Owner Alec Bradford. "It’s the staff at all the restaurants that have been most affected by COVID and its shockwave. Pay It Forward is doing its part to bring our community closer together, helping those who need it most."

In addition to visiting the restaurants participating in the Valentine's Day fundraiser, those wishing to contribute to Pay It Forward can make direct donations to its Emergency Relief Fund online.

Reach Parker Milner at 843-830-3911. Follow him on Twitter @parkermilner_.