The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is hitting our communities hard. From restaurants closing left and right, to furloughed workers to nonprofits stranded without funding, the pandemic has affected everyone.
But amid all this bad news, you can still find coronavirus stories of people helping each other and making a positive impact in their communities. That’s exactly what some restaurants and fundraising groups are doing – banding together with restaurant takeout fundraisers.
Read on to hear the coronavirus stories of how a local Mexican restaurant and a high school in Washington state came together to support each other with a restaurant takeout fundraiser. Spoiler Alert: The high school group made over $200 just from ordering takeout!
Coronavirus Stories: Rolling with the Punches of a Pandemic
The Happy Wanderer
In College Place, Washington, a small town of about 9,300 people, Mexican restaurant The Happy Wanderer is a local favorite. The family-owned and operated business started as a food truck in 2017 and got so popular that they opened a permanent location in 2019.
But similar to restaurants nationwide, The Happy Wanderer was in survival mode by mid-March. On March 16, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Governor Jay Inslee required that restaurants and bars stop dine-in service and only continue to serve customers via takeout or delivery orders.
For The Happy Wanderer, the ban on dine-in service was a huge blow. Weighing their options, they let their employees decide whether they would continue operating via takeout orders or not. Restaurant owner Ari said, “We told them: it’s up to you guys…if you guys feel unsafe then we can close our doors until something is done.”
In the end, the restaurant’s employees decided to keep accepting orders, switching to takeout and delivery. Fortunately, the restaurant happened to sign up with Doordash just a few weeks prior, so they were ready to accept delivery orders. They also continued to host restaurant fundraisers as a way to both give back to the community and welcome large groups.
“We have so many amazing restaurants in our community that are small businesses that depend on their community dollars to keep them going such as [The] Happy Wanderer. It’s not a chain, it’s a family restaurant that’s owned and operated by a family locally.” – Jenny, fundraising organizer
College Place High School
Since the high school’s first graduating class in 2018, parents have raised money to put on a graduation party designed to give students a safe space to celebrate, without the influence of alcohol or drugs.
As the spring semester progressed at College Place High School, it looked like this year may have to be different. Along with the restrictions on restaurants, Governor Inslee ordered all schools in Washington state to close through at least the end of April.
For the 108 high school seniors, the rise of the pandemic in Washington meant missing out on a large chunk of the last semester of their high school experience. The pandemic also threw a wrench into the plans of a group of parents fundraising for their senior class graduation party.
The group had already raised $531 in February 2020 with a successful restaurant fundraiser at MOD Pizza, and they had another event scheduled for March 25 at The Happy Wanderer.
Although The Happy Wanderer assured the College Place High School fundraising group that their event could still go forward with takeout and delivery orders, the group was concerned that their fundraiser would flop. The high school was closed, limiting the channels the group had to promote their fundraiser. They posted on social media and put signs around town, hoping for the best. The Happy Wanderer also posted on their own social media to spread the word about the event.
Connecting the Community through a Restaurant Takeout Fundraiser
When the day of the fundraiser finally arrived, the College Place community came through to support both their high school seniors and their favorite local restaurant. Supporters ordered through a combination of curb-side pickup and Doordash delivery. The group as a whole generated $1,400 of restaurant sales, of which $210 (15%) was donated back to their cause.
While the whole town was pretty much shut down, with schools closed and many people working from home, the group was able to stay safe, fundraise, and support a local business at the same time.
Although the pandemic definitely made participation lower than the previous restaurant fundraiser, event organizer Jenny said that the group was thankful for the donation. In addition to their fundraising cause, Jenny also thought it was important to be putting money back into the community through takeout orders. She commented, “We have so many amazing restaurants in our community that are small businesses that depend on their community dollars to keep them going such as [The] Happy Wanderer. It’s not a chain, it’s a family restaurant that’s owned and operated by a family locally.”
The next few months hold a lot of uncertainty for The Happy Wanderer and the College Place High School fundraising group.
The Happy Wanderer
Up until now, restaurant owner Ari says that they have been making it through in terms of income, thanks to the community. Since they opened, The Happy Wanderer has prioritized giving back. Now, their community has rallied to return the favor.
Ari said, “We’ve done a lot of community events. Last year, we did a Thanksgiving where we gave 150 turkeys and meals to different families. So the community really supports the fact that we give back and they also respond by helping us.” For example, some community groups have done shout-outs on social media, letting their followers know that The Happy Wanderer is still open and encouraging them to order takeout to help the restaurant.
Until the governor lifts the dine-in ban, The Happy Wanderer will have to rely on takeout and delivery orders. If you live nearby, show your support by ordering some delicious Mexican food from them! You can also bring them more business and earn money for your own cause at the same time by hosting your next fundraiser with The Happy Wanderer.
If you’re not closeby, check out our other blog post for ideas on how to support local restaurants during the pandemic. There are sure to be local restaurants near you that could use your help! You can also share this resources for restaurants article with any restaurant teams you know.
College Place High School
As for the high school, the school will be closed until at least May 4, and any events after that are still in question, including prom, graduation, and the senior graduation party. Parents also had a fundraiser planned for May – a dinner and silent auction – but will have to wait and see if it’s possible to do.
Everyone is hoping that the public health situation will improve so that they can celebrate graduation together in June. If the graduation party can’t go forward as scheduled, the funds will go towards gifts for the graduating class.
College Place High School’s fundraiser at The Happy Wanderer was just one day in both of their coronavirus stories, but one where community support made a difference.
Now more than ever it’s essential to lend support where it’s needed. We may not be able to continue all our normal activities, but by adapting and finding new ways to reach our goals, we’ll be able to make it through this pandemic together.
Do you have your own fundraising goal? Check out local restaurants near you that do takeout fundraisers!
Are you part of a restaurant team looking to boost revenue? Consider offering takeout fundraisers and connect online with groups near you!