Silas, 2-years-old, was born premature and has needed the help of a machine to breathe from just three months old. Silas had been hospitalized for six months due to random apnea events where he would stop breathing, his heart rate would drop, and he would need resuscitation, according to his parent.
Abby McDonald and Jesse Burdette, both working in the restaurant industry, were faced with financial difficulties from having to take off work so much. Between the hospital bills, home bills piling up, being out of work, and the cost of the machine the family needed some extra help. They received it from the industry they worked in .
McDonald and Burdette had been receiving help from CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees), an organization that helps the children of restaurant employees. CORE had sent an application for Silas to Giving Kitchen, hoping that the family would be accepted. Giving Kitchen, a non-profit organization, granted the family’s request and helped them financially. Giving Kitchen paid their rent and utilities so that this family could focus on their son, instead of having to stress about being out of work.
“It is not easy to ask for help, but they make you feel comfortable and accepted. It is wonderful to know there are good people still out there” says McDonald.
“They understood I was going through an extremely difficult time and they try and make it as stress-free as possible. They made the checks out to our landlord, electric company, water, and sent them out” says McDonald.
This family is one out of thousands of restaurant employees that Giving Kitchen has offered their grant to. After Ryan Hidinger, the co-founder of Giving Kitchen passed away in 2014, his wife and his friends have kept his memory alive by continuing to help others out in the industry.
Ryan and Jen Hidinger would host an underground supper club every Sunday at their home in Grant Park, which would consist of fresh cooked meals and libations. After Labor Day weekend in 2009, where they served 200 guests in the backyard of their home, they decided to team up with others to host more intimate supper clubs. These nights are what fueled their dream to open a restaurant.
Ryan Hidinger was diagnosed with stage-four gallbladder cancer in December of 2012. The couple was surrounded by friends and family who radiated all of their love and financial support which helped to cover Ryan’s medical expenses. This gave the Hidingers the push that would create Staplehouse, and ultimately, the founding of The Giving Kitchen in 2013.
The organization has helped 1,222 restaurant employees with over $1.9 million in grants since the creation 5-years ago. Amanda Newsom, the marketing and communications manager of Giving Kitchen says this is unique. “There are not any other organizations in the country doing what we are doing specifically. We are the only nonprofit supporting restaurant workers in the way that we do, that we know of.” Newsom has been working with nonprofits for over ten years and has been with Giving Kitchen for a year.
This organization is rapidly growing. With seven full-time employees and two part-time employees, totaling nine staff members, this nonprofit continues to add staff to support their growth and expansion. Newsom says “We rely heavily on our awesome volunteers, as well. We have over 700 volunteers on our volunteer newsletter list who have volunteered at least once in the past two years. They help with events, office tasks, and anything else we need support with beyond our staff. We also have interns on occasion.”
Giving Kitchen is an organization that shows just how tight-knit of a community the restaurant industry is. “The Giving Kitchen is building a restaurant community where crisis is met with compassion and care, and anyone can be a hero,” says Newsome.