Digital Exclusive: Hospitality & restaurant worker relief fund continues to impact community

Digital Exclusive

STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pocono Mountains United Way Hospitality & Restaurant Worker Relief Fund was established to help local workers navigate employment uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think people in very difficult times want to find that warm light to center around and the fund was that for the last couple of weeks,” said Michael Tukeva, President/CEO, Pocono Mountains United Way.

Tukeva says the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts that temporarily closed bars, restaurants and entertainment facilities hit the region hard.

“Tourism as an industry is probably $4 billion for the Pocono Mountains and there’s over 30,000 people that work in that industry across the four counties and when the restrictions came out in the middle of December, it left a lot of people panicked because that is the busy season, that is what allows people to pay their monthly bills,” said Tukeva.

To help the community, the United Way partnered with the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau to provide mini-grants of $250 to qualifying hospitality workers and restaurant employees who live or work in Wayne, Pike, Monroe and Carbon Counties, since December.

“If we raise a dollar, a dollar goes into the hands of the folks that need it,” said Chris Barrett, President/CEO, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

The funds are given to eligible recipients in the form of a gift card, virtual card, or transfer. Tukeva says the efforts left a powerful impact on the community.

“The overwhelming response was people saying, ‘we appreciate that you’ve created this fund, even if you can’t support me personally, thank you for doing this’,” said Tukeva.

Both organizations say the purpose of this fund is to give back to the people that have served during these unprecedented times, and they will continue to help for as long as possible.

“This is a small way we can help to serve them, until they have more of a sustained income,” said Barrett.”

“We are giving them hope. Hope for a better tomorrow,” said Tukeva.

To date the fund has collected nearly $140,000, with over 284 applicants served. Donations can be made online or in-person.

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