KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A grassroots effort to help local restaurants and workers will continue, despite the end of the indoor dining ban in Michigan.
Friends Todd Heeter and Jay Rustenholtz created the #LocalLove Kalamazoo campaign on social media in late 2020.
Their goal: to help and highlight locally owned and operated restaurants, while also raising money to help employees affected by the COVID-19 restrictions and closures.
The campaign has taken off in 2021, bringing in more than $25,000 dollars to help restaurant workers.
Heeter and Rustenholz have now filed to make #LocalLove Kalamazoo an official non-profit, and say their work will continue as long as the need is there.
"I think the needle is moving in the right direction, 25 percent [capacity in restaurants] is better than zero," said Heeter. "The perception out there will be that, well, restaurants are back open so we can kind of start going back to normal. What we really want to express is it's not normal yet... [restaurants] still need our help and our support in a big big way."
Rustenholtz, who highlights different establishments during Facebook live videos each week, said their efforts are appreciated by those in the restaurant industry, and the community.
"I know it's been really impactful, talking to the people who work at these restaurants and how much it means to them, how much it means to people who are in the industry," said Rustenholtz. "They just really appreciate it...it means a lot to them that we're taking our time and our energy, and our resources put in to just do this."
Heeter and Rustenholtz hope to begin distributing $300 checks this week to affected employees who have been signed up by their employers.
So far, 250 workers are signed up and waiting for help.
Once the restaurant industry recovers, Heeter and Rustenholtz hope to continue to make an impact on the community in different ways.
"Our whole thing is local love, a movement of kindness... so we want to spread hope and kindness and positivity throughout the community," Heeter told FOX 17 News. "So, however we can do that going forward, whether it's highlighting local businesses... whatever that is, we're going to brainstorm and do that."