Over the weekend, the Houston Texans Foundation donated $50,000 to Southern Smoke while Tito's Vodka has chosen it as one of four beneficiaries of an immediate $1 million dollar donation to support the hospitality industry.
The other three beneficiaries are CORE, the USBG Foundation and World Central Kitchen. All of the funds from the Houston Texans Foundation will be used for applicants in Houston and the surrounding areas. Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes said in a press release: "The effects of COVID-19 are being felt in all industries, but especially in the hospitality industry...Houston has become the culinary capital of the south because of these hard-working Texans and we felt compelled to provide them with assistance during this difficult time."
Shepherd had announced that Southern Smoke Spring was being canceled due to coronavirus fears, as reported here in the Houston Press. The estimated amount on track to be raised was $200,000.
A week later, with the coronavirus making its way across the country, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced an order on March 16 — the day before St. Patrick's Day, a holiday that nets many bars and nightclubs a lot of dough — prohibiting restaurants and bars from opening their dining rooms and venues for 15 days.
The damage was hard and quick. Restaurants and bars have always had slim margins as far as profits go and they depend on holidays and celebrations to pump up their operating capital.
In 2015, Shepherd founded The Southern Smoke Foundation was founded in 2015 by Shepherd, his former business partner, Kevin Floyd and Lindsey Brown to raise funds for the Houston chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
In 2017, the restaurant and hospitality industry was slammed by damage from Hurricane Harvey. The Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund was instituted to divert some of the money raised to help industry employees recover from the natural disaster. Since then, the emergency fund has been used to aid those in the hospitality community dealing with insurmountable medical bills, damage from fires and other dire situations.
During Hurricane Harvey, the charity received around 200 applications. This month, in just over a week, it has received 3,500. The foundation accepts applications and grants nationwide. While the need is exceedingly great, there has also been an amazing response. The organization has seen an uptick in online donations, but these two recent major donations will also help to cover some serious ground.
The Restaurant Workers Community Fund has committed 50 percent of all money raised to Southern Smoke and will direct anyone requesting financial help directly to Southern Smoke's Emergency Relief Fund application.
Kathryn Lott, executive director at Southern Smoke says, "My team and I will do everything we can to take care of as many people as we can so our restaurants and bars are still standing after this crisis...The Southern Smoke team will continue to work and we will all get through this together. We're here to take care of our own".
Together is the only way we will make it.
If you would like to donate or apply for funds, go to southernsmoke.org