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Harford organizations rally to help out of work, struggling businesses and workers

Options to help people affected by the novel coronavirus in Harford County are not limited, as members of the community and organizations have stepped in to help local businesses shuttered as part of preventative measures taken against the virus.

Aberdeen-based digital marketing firm WEBIXI has compiled a list of businesses and restaurants that are still operating in Harford County as well as nonprofits that could use volunteers or donations. Beyond those businesses, the company has also started a virtual tip jar, giving restaurant-goers a direct line to workers who have been affected by the coronavirus-related closures.

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And to help organizations that may be swamped with work providing discounted services like food or housing assistance to Harford County residents, the Community Foundation of Harford County has set up two emergency funds to provide assistance to nonprofits that aid people in the county.

Over 400 people — mostly former restaurant and bar workers — have added their names to the growing list of people asking for help as the coronavirus forces layoffs or shuts down their places of work. The virtual tip jar has collated names and PayPal or Venmo accounts of hundreds of service-workers in the county, allowing regular customers or charitable patrons to send them and others an electronic payment while restaurants and bars maintain limited hours.

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all non-essential businesses to close Monday, but restaurants and bars have been prohibited from seating and serving customers at their locations for longer. In Harford County, that has left many businesses on shaky footing, with some forecasting bankruptcy and laying off staff or cutting their hours.

Director of special projects at WEBIXI, Patrick Chambers, said he got the idea for the virtual tip jar on Facebook. He also heard that some people carrying out food amid the pandemic were not tipping, which restaurant workers rely on for their living.

"I just really hope that the community comes together and they are all looking after each other and try to eat out more than they had been,” Chambers said. “You really have to tip your waiter now because they are gonna be hard up if this keeps going on.”

Chambers spends much of his working days on networking with businesses, nonprofits and community agencies. He has helped solicit donations from local organizations, so when he saw local restaurants suffering, he wanted to help.

"We have been asking these restaurants for donations for years. Now it is time to give back,” Chambers said.

Brandon Cherry worked at Miller’s Ale House for two years, but now the recent Towson University graduate is helping his dad with his flooring business — pulling up carpet and laying floors. He said he has been looking for jobs, but at least one opportunity had to be rescheduled in view of the coronavirus. He put his name on the list in the hopes some of his regular customers would throw him a line; he bought a house two weeks ago, and now has a mortgage to pay.

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"I have a lot of regulars at Miller’s; I was kinda hoping my regulars and people that come into my work help me,” he said.

Harry Baumeister, a bartender at Independent Brewing Company in Bel Air, said he will be financially fine for a couple months, even though he is not working. He said he had friends he could borrow money from and some savings to live off. He said he was glad his co-workers who needed the money are working instead of him.

“I have enough money to pay my bills and feed myself,” he said. “If someone else really needs a job I would rather them take it than me take it.”

Baumeister has worked as a bartender for a long time, but only at Independant Brewing Company since last June, he said. He does not need the money, but signed his name to the virtual tip jar in solidarity with the other service industry workers. By adding names to the list, he said, it becomes more legitimate and credible in the eyes of the public, which might net some servers tips from generous customers.

People working in restaurants rely on tips, Baumeister said, estimating that close to 90% of his own pay came from them.

"I am not expecting any tips from it. I just feel like it helps create awareness … that is how we make our living,” he said. “The problem is there is not a lot of extra money going around these days.”

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Many of our friends and neighbors may be affected by the havoc that COVID-19 is wreaking on our region and the entire...

Posted by Community Foundation of Harford County on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Beyond paying those businesses and people affected by the virus directly, the Harford County Community Foundation has established two funds that are now taking donations.

All of the money collected will go toward helping nonprofit organizations that could be swamped by an influx of people in need of services like food or housing assistance, executive director of the organization Jennifer Farrell said.

"It is a scary time for everyone, but it is really beautiful to see the citizens of Harford County come together,” she said.

Farrell said the Community Foundation of Harford County has already gotten some small donations from local sources toward their two funds.

The “Help Your Neighbor Fund” is geared toward providing rent, fuel and food assistance to residents, while the Harford County Cares Fund “supports nonprofits in their work to provide services for individuals affected by the virus,” according to a news release from the organization.

All donations to both funds are tax-deductible, and the organization will not take a fee from any donations.

“We do not really want anything out of this,” Farrell said. "This is just because we care.”

Those interested in donating to either fund can go to the organization’s website or mail a check to Community Foundation of Harford County, P.O. Box 612, Bel Air, MD 21014 and choosing a fund for the money to go to.

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