In these tough times, it's important for community members to rally together and uplift their neighbors, activists say.
That rings especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Masy Bunnell, Long Beach resident and co-founder of Accountability PAC, a nonprofit hopeful with an aim to expand outreach to struggling community members.
"It's the holidays, people are out of work, they can't see their families because we're in a pandemic — people need help," Bunnell said. "We can't wait for things to happen, so we need to take initiative ourselves and help our community."
Although established just six weeks ago, Bunnell — alongside Accountability PAC co-founders Trent Bryson and Ryan Choura — has set up a fundraiser for restaurant employees who have been laid off or furloughed due to the recent stay-at-home order.
Called the Restaurant Employee Wish List Program, restaurant owners can submit the names and contact information of their employees they are no longer able to employ full time — or at all. The submission places that employee on a list to receive needed gift cards for essentials, like food, toiletries and utilities.
But how much the team is able to distribute depends on what they're able to gather through donations. The hope is to be able to assist all of the restaurant workers on the list, Bunnell said.
"We've had really great response to this so far, so we're hoping for a good turnout," she said.
Established Long Beach organizations are checking in to help the cause, too.
Terri Henry, founder of the nonprofit Long Beach Food and Beverage and Dine LBC restaurant week, has offered her assistance to the new organization by spreading the word and offering her website as a resource for Long Beach restaurant owners to nominate their employees for the fundraiser.
"We're trying to do something to help these families have a little bit of a happier holiday considering everything that’s going on," Henry said. "We’re hoping to expand this fundraiser and help a lot of people where we can."
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Bunnell marched along Second Street in Belmont Shore in a "March to Save Small Businesses." Accountability PAC co-founders Ryan Choura, owner of Choura Events, and Trent Bryson, CEO of Bryson Financial, led the march in protest of the latest stay-at-home order that shut down in-person dining at restaurants throughout Southern California.
"The evidence doesn’t support these closures,” Choura told the Press-Telegram last week. "It’s time our elected leaders explain why we have to close down again."
While the protest spawned both support and criticism, Bunnell said that at the end of the day, folks need to speak up and be present for each other.
"We need to think about how we can minimize (coronavirus) impact as much as possible, but do we need to shut things down completely for weeks?" she said. "And it's not just restaurants. There are so many people out of work right now that don't have a savings, or are living paycheck to paycheck.
"What do they do if they have no paycheck?"
Restaurant owners can register their employees for the Restaurant Employee Wish List fundraiser at lbfoodandbeverage.org/employee-wish-list-program.
To make a donation to the Restaurant Employee Wish List fundraiser, go to gazettes.com/go/AccountabilityPAC.
For questions about the fundraiser or the Accountability PAC, email Masy Bunnell directly at email@example.com.