February 6, 2023

Workers, businesses hit by coronavirus turn to GoFundMe

SAN DIEGO — Some are to help laid-off restaurant workers or struggling breweries. Others are to keep dance studios open.

But the online fundraisers all have one thing in common. Each of the GoFundMe posts are from a person, business or organization hurting financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report released recently by GoFundMe, 60% of its COVID-related fundraisers in the U.S. were for small businesses. Worldwide, COVID-related fundraisers on the site have generated about $625 million, according to the report.

A Small Business Relief Initiative created by GoFundMe in March showed many fundraisers going beyond their goals. A drive to keep San Francisco’s historic City Lights Books in business surpassed its $300,000 goal and raised $495,000, while in Los Angeles, supporters of the beloved Amoeba Music have raised $293,600 toward a goal of $400,000.

The fundraisers have been more modest locally, but do show patrons want to keep their favorite taverns and restaurants in business.

In Bankers Hill, Parc Bistro-Brasserie general manager Samantha Scholl created a “virtual tip jar” to help her 27 employees in March and raised about $11,000.

“It was amazing,” Scholl said about the fundraiser. “The community support was overwhelming.”

As a fine-dining French restaurant, Parc Bistro-Brasserie was not prepared to switch to takeout-only service when the shutdown was ordered, and the 4-year-old business closed for about two weeks while Scholl and the chef reworked their menu.

Scholl said about 80% of her customers are regulars, and many chipped in to help her staff. They also bought about $17,000 in gift cards to use when the restaurant reopened, which Scholl said helped keep the business afloat.

“I’ve been in this industry 27 years, and I have never in my life been so blessed with a community like I have right now,” she said.

Some pages are are inspiring. Fuel the Frontline has used GoFundMe to raise $77,000 to buy meals for local health care workers, supporting both the workers and area restaurants. It’s just one of several local fundraisers aimed at showing thanks to health care workers.

In another successful fundraiser, $110,000 has been raised to benefit San Diego’s arts and culture community.

“Everybody who is an artist is unemployed right now,” organizer Lee Ann Kim said.

Aspiring director Teija Purvis of San Diego was preparing to start shooting the short film “Maraschino Cherry” when the coronavirus hit. Purvis lost a paid internship that would have funded the shoot, but made up the $600 lost through GoFundMe.

The new GoFundMe report showed about 60% in the U.S. were to support small businesses such as restaurants and shops, and 19% were for art, daycare and school supplies.

Fundraisers to provide frontline workers with personal protection equipment accounted for 9% of the fundraisers, and 7% were aimed at providing food and monetary relief.

Another 3% were launched to pay for medical expenses, and 2% raised money for funerals and to support bereaved families left behind by a victim of COVID-19.

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