Working in the service industry is no easy task. Waiters, waitresses and those who work in hotels must joyfully tend to customers day in and day out. And if they’re unable to put in hours, they don’t get paid.

That becomes a major issue when a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, forces the closures of businesses. It is something that those in the Isles’ service industry know first hand. With three evacuations in the last three years, many have been hit hard financially. And, even though Dorian did little damage to the Golden Isles, the lack of available work did significantly impact the wallets of those in those in the restaurant and hotel industry.

That’s why the Episcopal Church stepped in to help. The church has a relief arm called Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). It provides funds for a host of needs around the world — primarily disaster relief. The organization joins with Episcopal and Anglican partners on the ground after disasters to help where they can.

This time, it has teamed up with the Giving Kitchen, based in Atlanta, to help coastal residents financially affected by the storm. The ERD obtained a grant to aid food service workers in the evacuation zones in Georgia and South Carolina.

Golden Isles residents who fit that mold can apply for help as well. The local efforts are being spearheaded by two Episcopal churches, St. Mark’s in Brunswick and Christ Church Frederica on St. Simons Island. The Rev. Alan Akridge, pastor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, says that they’re thrilled to be part of the broader relief efforts.

“In the aftermath of Dorian, a lot of people are doing a lot of wonderful things. We found out that our diocese, through the ERD, was going to offer this relief effort. It’s targeted at those who kind of fell through the cracks. You don’t always think about it, but when there’s a mandatory evacuation, it has a direct impact on those who rely on hourly wages,” Akridge said.

Service industry providers only need to fill out a basic application online at http://www.thegivingkitchen.org/Dorian to apply for assistance. They must provide proof of current employment in the commercial food service industry, as well as financial need to qualify. Grocery store gift cards, ranging in value from $50 to $500, will be distributed. One time funds are given on a first come first served bases. The Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund runs through Sept. 30. The two churches have already distributed thousands in assistance.

The Rev. Tom Purdy pastor of Christ Church Frederica says that once the applicants are approved, they can retrieve their gift cards from the local churches.

“Christ Church is one of the distribution sites for the relief grants. Once someone is approved by applying to Giving Kitchen online, they tell them where to go to get their aid. St. Mark’s, Brunswick is the other location for Glynn County. The community can help by getting the word out about this opportunity, but they can do even more,” Purdy said.

“It is important to remember that there are many hourly employees and a range of businesses that rely on being open to generate income. Some can handle evacuations better than others. One thing we can do is take notice of the most vulnerable people in the workforce and offer support if we’re able. We can also patronize businesses, particularly small businesses who lose revenue and income once they reopen after an evacuation or a hurricane. That helps businesses help their employees and can help make up for what could otherwise be a devastating financial loss.”

Akridge agrees and notes that it’s important to take as many opportunities as possible to help out friends and neighbors. This relief effort is a good example of that.

“We’re so happy to be able to just give them a hug and offer a little support. They don’t have to be Episcopalian or part of the church — they don’t even have to be Christian. We just want to help. And I think that most people do,” Akridge said.

Another example of the way the Golden Isles community is looking to help is through a benefit concert — Island to Island — a fundraiser for the Bahamas that will feature live music from 4 to 9 p.m. on the St. Simons Island lighthouse lawn Sept. 29. Tickets are $15 for adults and children under 12 will be admitted for free. Area restaurants and musicians joined forces to pull the show together in order to donate money raised to the Bahamas.

“I think people genuinely care about other people are looking for ways to express that,” Akridge said.

He also encourages individuals to think about small ways to make a difference daily.

“(The public) could help (those in the service industry) directly by just leave an extra $5 at the coffee shop or restaurant,” he said.

Funds can be directly donated to the ERD at www.episcopalrelief.org. But regardless of the way one decides to help, Purdy feels that supporting one’s fellow man is critically important part of walking the spiritual path.

“As Christians, we help the least, the lost and the last. That doesn’t always take the form of extreme need, like homelessness or someone who is dying. It’s most often going to involve doing little things for people who are facing an acute and temporary need. There are a lot of folks who need a small helping hand that we would never assume were in that position,” Purdy said.

“Help in the right amount, at the right time, can make a tremendous difference for someone in need. It doesn’t take long to slide down a slope that can be difficult to climb back up. I always hope that when we help a person, it makes them more likely to help others who need it later in life. My life has worked out that way. I have been on the receiving end before, which is why I do what I can to help others. That’s the way of love for those of us who follow Jesus Christ.”

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