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Groups rally to feed frontline workers and support local restaurants

Groups rally to feed frontline workers and support local restaurants
July 2020

Workers at Roper St. Francis’s Hospice Cottage enjoyed lunch from Verde provided by donations to Vital Hospitality Charleston.

Charleston is renowned for its award-winning dining scene, from fish shacks to white-tablecloth restaurants. So when those establishments shuttered in March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, forcing many dedicated front and back of house workers out of their jobs, the whole city felt a sense of loss. Many in the F&B industry—as well as loyal patrons—rallied to provide sustenance to frontline workers caring for the sick as well as to support the chefs, servers, dishwashers, and managers who often have served up comfort to the community.

Feeding Our Heroes-SC

Mount Pleasant’s Whitney Klomparens joined friends Suzi Pigg and Leigh Ann Garrett to launch a Feeding Our Heroes-SC Facebook page. The goal? To raise money to donate meals from their favorite locally owned eateries to exhausted doctors and nurses. “Suzi’s father is an ER physician, so she knew the needs of his team, and I have been in the F&B industry since college. It was easy to put the two together and help both groups,” Klomparens says.

Since March 24, Feeding Our Heroes has served more than 4,500 individually packaged meals to medical staff at the Medical University of South Carolina, East Cooper Medical Center, and Roper St. Francis. Restaurants such as Rutledge Cab, Graze, and Carmen Y Juan, created meals. “We wanted to use restaurants that would change our lives if they didn’t open back up, that are part of the whole reason we live in Charleston,“ says Klomparens.

The women have raised about $40,000 and plan to provide food until they have spent all the funds. To donate, Venmo @FeedingOurHereosSC.

Pay It Forward Charleston

Michael Shemtov, owner of Butcher & Bee, The Daily, The Workshop, and Mellow Mushroom, knew when he had to temporarily close his restaurants that Storey Farms would likely have eggs it could no longer sell to restaurants. Shemtov wondered if he could buy those eggs at a discount and give them to his staff. Before long, grocery bags of eggs, as well as produce and pre-made meals, were being provided to F&B workers in need. Butcher & Bee’s management crew was joined by Feed the Need, which offered its nonprofit financial expertise, and Cru Catering, which assisted with staff administration and distribution.

The effort has grown faster than hens lay eggs, and contributors read like a Who’s Who of artisan purveyors: Storey Farms, Spade and Clover, Limehouse Produce, GrowFood Carolina, Anson Mills, King Bean Coffee, and more. By May, 2,111 food and beverage workers had signed up for a weekly bag of groceries, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. By mid-May, Pay It Forward Charleston had doubled its goal of raising $100,000 and has now distributed 6,500 bags.

The group recently announced partnerships with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, Neighborhood House, and Tricounty Family Ministries to continue donating food, even as restaurants reopen. Plans are in the works to form a nonprofit. “Pay It Forward is not going anywhere,” Shemtov says. “It proves we need emergency grants for the Charleston food and beverage community. Restaurants work on the thinnest of margins. What happens when the next hurricane comes through?”
To donate, visit

(Left) Frontline workers at Roper Hospital downtown dined on lunch from Martin’s Bar-B-Que thanks to Feeding Our Heroes-SC; (Right) Pay It Forward's produce bags.

Vital Hospitality CHS

Les Dames d’Escoffier’s mission is to support females in the food and beverage industry, but when restaurants began shutting their doors, Charleston chapter members needed help as well. After reading a thread on the group’s Listserv, Megan Deschaine, bar manager at Doar Bros., wondered what she could do. “This was a threat to our personal and professional well-being,” she says. “I felt a real sense of urgency to act, and I think it goes to being based in a hospitality profession, we already have a heart to serve. This was using the strengths we have.”

With the help of some other chapter members, Deschaine started a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy individually wrapped meals from local restaurants and donate them to frontline workers.

In the first five weeks, Decschaine’s effort, called Vital Hospitality, raised more than $3,500 and served more than 500 medical professionals at MUSC, Trident, and Roper, as well as meals for One80Place staff from Verde, Salthouse Catering, Grey Ghost Bakery, Red Orchids China Bistro, The Wickliffe House, Duvall Catering, and The Macintosh.

Deschaine hopes to keep the infrastructure in place for a second wave of the pandemic or a future disaster. To donate, visit

Mitternight is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.