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Fort Myers venues team up to provide meals for hospitality workers

As more and more places close down, that means more and more people are out of work. And that’s means many people in Southwest Florida are having trouble making ends meet. But a special effort was made to help get community members get the food they need, specifically those who work in hospitality.

We looked at how an initiative organized by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in partnership with The Roots of Society in Fort Myers helped hospitality workers in Southwest Florida Saturday.

This weekend, drivers were able to pull up and pick from one of two free meals — craft tacos or beef stroganoff pasta. It was all an effort to help hospitality workers hit hard by all of the business closures.

Business owners from the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre and The Roots of Society teamed up to prepare nearly 1,500 meals to help feed hospitality during the hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Those meals would have otherwise been thrown away because of the closures. Dozens of volunteers showed up in gloves and masks to help safely distribute the meals.

Will Prather, the owner and executive producer of Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, said he has seen how the pandemic has impacted his own business and his own employees. That’s why he wanted to step up and help.

“I had to lay off 144 people on Monday and so that was a lot of my operational staff, kitchen employees,” Prather said. “We just needed to get some food into peoples’ hands right now that really could use that extra meal this weekend.”

Rachel Meltzer has been a full-time bartender at the theater for three years. She calls her co-workers there her family. Last week, she was among those employees affected by the tough layoffs the theater had to make.

“Not having a job now, I just got laid off on Monday has really put a strain on my future,” Meltzer said.

It’s a future that includes her six-month-old son, Cyrus, who she raises on her own. Now, she’s not sure how she will provide from him and herself.

“Never thought I’d be 27 and filing for unemployment,” Meltzer said.

We took to Facebook and asked many of our followers if they were in situations similar to Meltzers, and we received dozens of replies.

A response such as the one the theater and The Roots made is an example of how community was able to come together to support those who make it tick.

“Southwest Florida, obviously the number one economic driver is hospitality and tourism,” said Brad Cozza, partner at The Roots of Society. “So this sector got hit first and is obviously in an area of devastation, so we wanted to make sure we targeted the fellow hospitality industry professionals.”

Even though people such as Meltzer have fallen on hard time, she is giving others in the same situation a helping hand.

“I’m willing to just go out there and help others and just be supportive,” Meltzer said.

There is no word yet on exactly how many people received meals here today.

Organizers said they would consider holding another event like this one of the demand continues.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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