The Louisiana Restaurant Association, in tandem with other New Orleans groups, is coordinating a relief fund targeted at hospitality workers affected by Hurricane Harvey. The response reflects the help that Hurricane Katrina victims received from Houston more than a decade ago.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and other parts of southeast Texas, Louisiana’s restaurant industry knew all about how bad a storm like this could be.
Many who work in the state’s restaurants lived through Hurricane Katrina. And many of those businesses, large and small, made it through that storm with Houston’s help. Now, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), with the help of The Commander’s Family of Restaurants and the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is ready to repay the favor.
Last week, the groups launched the Hurricane Harvey Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, which will direct donations from the national and state levels to help restaurant workers get back on their feet. LRA emphasizes that the association helps from a position of experience.
“Our restaurant community immediately rallies to answer the call of those in need,” LRA President and CEO Stan Harris said in a news release. “Unfortunately, our challenges with weather-related events have provided us the experience to aid those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Helping direct money to get hospitality employees back on their feet and to work is critical for Houston’s recovery.”
The relief fund is designed to organize a wide array of stakeholders who are ready to assist with the widespread flooding affecting Texas and parts of Louisiana. Some have already taken things into their own hands. For example, chef John Besh, a well-regarded New Orleans restaurateur, brought a contingent from his company down to Texas with a mobile kitchen to serve as many as 5,000 meals to people in need.
“Administering hospitality in the wake of Hurricane Harvey has not even been a question,” Besh told Food & Wine. “Regardless of the circumstances, it’s times of trial that we as a group in the hospitality industry rise to the occasion to truly change lives through food and service.”
Numerous other efforts have cropped up in the New Orleans area, according to The Advocate, from benefit dinners to donation boxes to fundraisers.
LRA’s effort, which is focused on restaurant workers, reflects a general desire to help. The group is working to set up grants for individuals pinpointed by the Texas Restaurant Association and some of the Louisiana group’s local chapters, which were also affected by the storm.
“We’re trying like heck to make sure that when they ask, we’re ready,” LRA’s Harris told The Advocate. “We have national chains and national suppliers with foundations that want to do something. Across Louisiana, we’re getting lots of calls from members saying, ‘We want to help the people there like they helped us here when we needed it.'”
On top of the hospitality industry-focused fund, the Greater New Orleans Foundation is administering the NOLA Pay It Forward Fund, a nonprofit storm-response fund launched by the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, in 2011. That effort has raised more than $37,000 since last week.