With the holidays in full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in the crazy consumerism of buying presents, decorating, and (in the case of our industry) trying to survive endless shifts in the weeds. But it’s important to remember what the holidays are really all about – spending time with people we care about and supporting and caring for each other.

While there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the US, there are astonishingly few that cater to the needs of the hospitality community – especially sad because often our back (or even front) of house are full of people just barely getting by.

We thought we’d do a bit of research to dig out a few great organizations serving the hospitality community. If you’re looking for great charities to share some of your holiday earnings, or if you’re struggling to get by this holiday season – here are some great folks who would love to help.

CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees, Ltd.

Perhaps the best known and widest reaching of all of the organizations on this list, CORE started in 2004 with the mission to grant support to children of food and beverage service employees navigating life-altering circumstances. Supported by corporate and individual donors, CORE is registered to receive donations and grant support in all 50 states and recently Puerto Rico as well. What I particularly liked about this organization was their flexibility. They run huge campaigns for large causes like relief efforts for Hurricane Irma and Harvey, but they also support individuals on a one-off basis. They typically support food and beverage service employees with children as they navigate illness or terminal conditions, car crashes, house fires, and other life-altering circumstances, but have also supported families affected by natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria.

One big campaign that I was very involved in was our/CORE’s response to the devastating Gatlinburg (TN) fires in November of 2016, which took the lives of 14 people, injuring close to 200 others and ripped through the entire town destroying homes and businesses. Once we were made aware of how many food and beverage service families were impacted and the hundreds of millions of dollars of damage that was caused, we were so grateful that a Tito’s Handmade Vodka matched our contribution, allowing us to grant support to 41 families in need. I made about 15 of the calls to the families impacted and needless to say, I was emotional and so touched by how surprised, yet kind and thankful these families were to receive support from CORE during this tough holiday season.

– Mara Lee, Founding Member, Board Member

About CORE:

  • Who they support: Children of food and beverage service employees
  • Types of support they provide: A wide variety of financial support, from rent and utilities to children’s medical expenses and even emotional support options like toys, therapy for children, or small family getaways to grieve and recenter.
  • Is it a 501c3 Organization? Yes!
  • How to Support CORE: In addition to monetary donations, CORE is always looking for Ambassadors to help spread the word about the organization or establishments willing to host events or on-premise promotions in support of CORE.
  • How to request support from CORE for yourself or someone else: If you could use some help or know someone who could, follow this link to apply or refer someone for support.

The USBG National Charity Foundation:

This Foundation is the charitable arm of the well-known United States Bartender’s Guild, Inc. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 2014 in response to a USBG member’s candid question: “How do I get out of this industry alive, with my health, a little money, and my sanity intact?” As a result, the Foundation’s mission is fairly broad:“to advance the lifelong stability and wellbeing of service industry professionals through education and charitable programs.” On a tactical level, the Foundation supports Social Responsibility through monthly blog posts, a quarterly “Heath & Wellness Award” and various community service programs to support wellness within the bartender community.

“Through both the BEAP and the HDRF the Foundation has had the opportunity to help many people in our industry recover from life changing events. One particular BEAP grantee broke her ankle so severely she needed multiple surgeries and was out of work for months. The BEAP was able to grant her the funding needed to help her with medical bills and rent. The BEAP also is available following natural disasters, as seen this year in our response to the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and the wildfires in Northern California. The BEAP supported industry members in need by granting funds for home repair, displaced persons housing, and emergency living expenses. Through the HDRF, a grantee stands out who was seeking help with childcare expenses during their spouse’s difficult cancer treatment. The HDRF was able to grant funds to help them keep their children in a safe and stable environment throughout the trying cancer treatment.”

– Genevieve Porter, Foundation Program Manager

They also support local community service projects, and facilitate fundraising efforts to support the following two key philanthropic funds:

The Bartender Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP)

This program is designed specifically to assist when a bartender, or someone working in the beverage industry, has a life emergency and requires financial assistance.

  • Who they support: Qualified individuals working in the beverage industry.
  • Types of support they provide: Financial support for a variety of emergency situations from Hurricane Relief to medical expenses, etc.
  • How to support the BEAP: Follow this link to donate directly and choose “Bartender Emergency Assistance Program” from the drop-down menu.
  • How to request support: Follow this link to begin the grant application process.

The Helen David Relief Fund (HDRF)

Honoring a beloved Michigan bar owner who was a two-time breast cancer survivor, the Helen David Relief Fund supports those in the bar industry who are fighting breast cancer, and to a lesser extent all forms of cancer.

  • Who they support: Qualified individuals affected by breast cancer, or other cancer, who work in the bar industry, and their families.
  • Types of support they provide: Financial support for a variety of expenses associated with living with the disease: from medical to living expenses.
  • How to support the HDRF: Follow this link to donate directly and choose “Helen David Relief Fund” from the drop-down menu.
  • How to request support: Follow this link to begin the grant application process.

A great way to stay up to date with the USBG National Charity Foundation events and local community service programs is simply to join your local chapter of the USBG – they send regular email updates of ways you can get involved. You can also stay up to date through @USBGNCF!

Regional Organizations:

In my research I also found a few local organizations located in Atlanta and Seattle respectively:

The Giving Kitchen: Atlanta, GA

Located in Atlanta, The Giving Kitchen “provides emergency assistance grants to Atlanta’s restaurant community facing unanticipated hardship.”

A uniquely structured organization, the Giving Kitchen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that also has a for-profit restaurant, (Staplehouse, Atlanta) as a subsidiary. The benefit of this two-way approach is that the organization is funded through both tax-deductible donations as well as 100% of the net profits from Staplehouse. S

  • Who they support: The Giving Kitchen supports individuals in the restaurant industry and their immediate dependents (spouse, children)
  • Types of support they provide: Financial support in two formats: “crisis” grants to pay basic living expenses directly to the grant applicant, and “matching” grants that match the funds raised by a restaurant team on behalf of a worker in need.
  • How to support TGK: Follow this link to see three great ways to support TGK: Volunteering, partnering with them, and / or directly donating.
  • How to request support: Follow this link to begin the grant application process for yourself or someone else in need.

Big Table: Seattle, WA

What fascinated me about Big Table was the focus on community, rather than purely financial support. Their mission states, “Big Table exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry transformed by building community around shared meals and caring for those who are in crisis, transition, or falling through the cracks.”Outwardly, what this means is Big Table hosts multi course dinners at a massive table, open to anyone and everyone in the restaurant industry. The meals are quarterly, completely free, and served at a massive 48-seat table. (A “Big Table” – get it?)

But it doesn’t end there – at the end of the night, “we share the vision of Big Table and invite guests to write down the name of someone they work with who is in crisis or needs help.” Then the organization responds to each of these needs personally to try to help. Their website said it best:

“The response to the needs shared can be as simple as providing diapers for a single dad barely paying his bills or as big as providing a car for a mom trying to work, go to school, and raise three kids on her own. We have arranged time away to rest for families in crisis, worked with collection agencies to reduce medical bills, helped with physical therapy after accidents, furnished apartments, provided childcare, helped cover legal costs, paid tuition, replaced stolen computers, and linked people up with doctors and dentists able to donate care.” (Source)

  • Who they support: Anyone from the hospitality industry.
  • Types of support they provide: As described above, Big Table offers a wide variety of support, from small to large.
  • How to support: Donate directly by following this link, or consider taking part in their unique “Unexpected 20’s” program to give $20 to someone in need.
  • How to request support: Follow this link to submit a request or referral for care.

Going Direct:

Still feeling charitable but haven’t found the right cause yet, consider one last option: there are thousands of bartenders on “GoFundMe” with campaigns for a wide variety of causes.

  • Donating: Technically speaking, Go Fund Me is not a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning your contributions are not tax deductible – but they do go directly to the recipient. Go Fund Me deducts a 2.9% + $0.30 fee for each donation to cover payment processor fees, but that appears to be the only cost involved. All that said, you can’t be certain your funds will be spent as promised, so choose your donations wisely.
  • Needing support? You can also go directly to Go Fund Me and create a campaign of your own. It won’t cost you anything except the payment processing fee for donations received. As a bonus, you don’t need to wait for your campaign to be fully funded before you can withdraw the proceeds.

‘Tis the Season

Whether your pockets are bulging from busy holiday nights or you’re struggling to make ends meet this season, I hope you’ll find an organization that can help support you and make your holiday great. If I’ve missed any great charitable organizations that serve the food & beverage industry, let me know in the comments below and we’ll definitely add them to the list!

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.