How Charlotte Businesses Are Giving Back
Local businesses may be experiencing a tough time, but they’re rallying to help those in need.
by Jessica Swannie Apr 02, 2020
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to displace individuals and families across Charlotte, local businesses are rallying to provide support, food and help wherever they can. Restaurants are preparing meals to feed the hungry. Breweries are repurposing space to package and distribute food. And local business owners are creating initiatives to help everyone generate revenue during this difficult time. Here are a few businesses in the Queen City that are giving back to our community.
Serving the Children
With schools closed for the foreseeable future, children who normally depend on their school-provided lunches may now find themselves in a tough spot. Local chefs and restaurants are banding together to ensure no kids go hungry.
Students of The Nest Academy will receive lunches each day until school resumes from The Loyalist Market in Matthews. The restaurant has also been delivering meals to Bread of Life Deliverance Church in Hidden Valley so that children are getting fed, even on the weekends. Even Vic the Chili Man came out of retirement to help feed low-income children through a collaboration with The Loyalist Market, Cokesbury United Methodist Church, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. The effort fed 250 people in just one day. You can donate to the cause here.
Through a partnership with Heal Charlotte, Chef Greg Collier of Uptown Yolk is preparing free breakfast meals to 100 kids living in Orchard Trace.
“We reached out to Greg [Jackson] to see if we could help feed folks. My thought was we could leverage our relationships with distributors to get food and Heal Charlotte could raise money we could use to pay our employees,” said Collier. “It’s a win for everyone. The more food we prepare the more hours our staff can work and be paid. We have a maximum of three staff at a time preparing the meals, mostly our kitchen manager Oscar Johnson.”
Greg Jackson of Heal Charlotte shares that each Monday, the organization sends a driver to pick up 100 breakfasts from Uptown Yolk, where Johnson is preparing and packing meals. Breakfast foods include a circulation of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, grit bowls with sausage and eggs, and waffles or pancakes. Right now, Heal Charlotte has independently raised funds through private donations, but you can donate on the organization’s website.
The efforts feed 75 children and 25 adults each day. Heal Charlotte takes 70 meals to Orchard Trace Condominiums, 20 meals go to the Garden Inn Suites, and 20 meals go to the Super 8 Motel in the 85/Sugar Creek area. They also deliver to families door-to-door.
Jackson said that JJ Langes Beatz & Eatz Food Truck comes every Monday and prepares 130 dinners for the community. Heal Charlotte raised funds for his food truck to come and serve the people of Orchard Trace.
LuLu’s Maryland-Style Chicken and Seafood is providing complimentary bagged lunches every day to students, which will include sandwiches, potato chips and other items. The restaurant will also open an hour early to serve students the lunches from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. via its curbside service.
“We’re excited to give back to the community we call home,” said co-owners Miketa Proctor and Jay Davis. “By providing lunches to students during these uncertain times, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to help families struggling with food instability.”
The team at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen quickly joined the “Free Lunches for Charlotte Kids” program orchestrated by Chris from The Loyalist Market. Each day since March 17, the team has prepared 50 lunches for kids and their families. Extra lunches are being donated to nonprofits and other organizations in Charlotte like Urban Promise CLT, Neighborhood Hope (The Abandon Project) and The Salvation Army Women's Shelter. Although the program ended on March 30, the team is still continuing its pledge to make lunches for those in need for as long as they can.
In addition to feeding the children, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen is offering virtual classes for families to cook together at home (themes include paella, quiche, breads and dumplings) and also started a huge at-home delivery radius for its family meal service.
“Because of this huge footprint, we are seeing countless people ‘gift’ meals to friends and loved ones who are in need for whatever reason,” said Andrew Wilen, who oversees operations, marketing and event management for Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen. “They won't have to search for a good food service within their area, they know that they'll be able to trust us to deliver to them.”
The team at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen has seen citizens of Charlotte self-fundraise for meals for front-line hospital workers, doctors and nurses.
“Our boxed lunches have been a perfect meal for those there,” Wilen said. By keeping our business afloat we are able to employ our team and order from our same farmers and local vendors.”
Wilen also mentioned that they’ve seen guests scheduled for cooking classes in March and April (that needed to be postponed) that donated their class credit to the GoFundMe pages that were established for both lunches for kids and meals for hospital workers.
“We’ve proudly made those donations ourselves in their names,” Wilen said.
Serving Those Who Serve Us
Both local staples and national favorites are teaming up to bring joy and food to those serving the community through medical fields each day.
To show appreciation for those serving the community, Enderly Coffee is offering coffee drops to medical professionals. Each “drop” includes 2 pounds of coffee as well as a handwritten note. You can sponsor a coffee drop for $25 each.
From now until May, Krispy Kreme will provide all healthcare workers a free dozen of original glazed doughnuts via the drive-thru. In addition, the company wants us to “be sweet” to our neighbors, even though we can’t physically gather. On Saturdays beginning on March 28, Krispy Kreme will add a free dozen original glazed doughnuts to every pickup, drive-thru and delivery order that includes a full price dozen original glazed donuts or more. Each free dozen will include a special smiley-face doughnut in the “Be Sweet Dozen.”
Marcel Stark, owner of Rē Salon and Med Spa, has been donating masks from the spa to local Charlotte hospitals. He joined forces with his mother, Eva Stark, and together they received a shipment for over 6,500 masks that will be donated to Atrium Health hospitals via a no-contact drop-off. The masks will be dispersed to Atrium Health teams on the front lines of their 13 hospitals in North Carolina.
Serving the Community
Local businesses are donating their event spaces as areas to sort and distribute food and donate to those in need.
Instead of serving as a place to gather, Blue Blaze Brewing has pivoted, and now uses its space as a food drop location. Its “Civil Gatherings” allow families to take what they need and leave what they can. The brewery is also partnering with other local breweries to support small businesses by providing home delivery services for both its own products, but also products from other local cideries and breweries like Red Clay Ciderworks and Lenny Boy Brewing Co.
Much like Blue Blaze Brewing, Catawba Brewing has changed the use of its private event space, The Barrel Room, into a food packaging and distribution center for The Bulb Mobile Markets.
To support Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, Sycamore Brewing is raising funds and giving 100% of all online gift card purchases (up to $30,000) to the nonprofit food bank. Every dollar received provides 7 pounds of food for those in need.
Serving Local Businesses
In addition to providing for the individuals in the community, these locals are also encouraging Charlotteans to support local businesses.
Local couple Tanise Love and her husband Derrick created the “Give, Buy, Hi” initiative to spread positivity and induce change for families in Charlotte. The idea is to give to the GoFundMe page to serve families struggling to pay for extended motel and hotel stays, buy goods from local businesses, or say“hi” to neighbors and businesses via social media during this difficult time.
“As we physically distance ourselves and socially connect with the help of technology, there are ways we can still spread hope and positivity — not the virus," said Tanise Love.
Corri Smith, owner of PR/marketing firm Black Wednesday, and Garrett Tichy, owner of Hygge coworking, partnered to create Support Local or Else (SLOE), a collective database of local businesses that need support during the crisis.
Businesses submit a form and are given a free listing on the site to connect with customers.
“We are seeing lots of submissions, lots of traffic on the site and businesses telling us they are making money off the site,” Smith said.
How You Can Give Back
Local businesses are giving back to the community, but there are still nonprofits that require assistance during the crisis. You can donate time, money and resources to SHARE Charlotte, a platform that connects individuals with nonprofits in need.
“Charlotte’s nonprofit community is being tremendously impacted by current events,” said Amy Jacobs, executive director of SHARE Charlotte. “With fundraising events cancelled and volunteers being encouraged to stay home, it is becoming increasingly difficult for nonprofits to fulfill their missions and pay their staff. However, their services are needed now more than ever, as this health crisis escalates and people continue to lose their jobs.”
Jacobs shared that the organization has been overwhelmed by the selflessness and generosity of the community and corporate partners.
“Our goal through this crisis is to do what we do best — connect those who want to help Mecklenburg County's nonprofit community to all the ways they can,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we’ve introduced #SHAREfromHome — ways our community can do good from home to help keep our nonprofits serving our most vulnerable neighbors.
Through #SHAREfromHome, you can help the community by donating time. Good with numbers? Act as a bookkeeper for the Hands for Holly Memorial Fund. Enjoy the written word? Write a love/hope card for Good Soles. Collector? Donate pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. Love to learn and teach? Create flashcards for Classroom Central. Love to socialize? Make check-in calls to seniors in the Charlotte Village Network. No matter your hobby, you can help someone in need. Discover more opportunities here.
If you don’t have free time, you can always donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund through the Foundations of the Carolinas and the United Way of the Carolinas, to the CMS Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, or directly to the nonprofit of your choice.