The Wood River COVID-19 Service Industry Relief Fund raised more than four times its initial goal as of Thursday, April 2.

Two weeks ago, on Friday, March 20, Gov. Brad Little’s “shelter in place” order for Blaine County went into effect. By that point, businesses and other organizations across the valley had already closed in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19. The governor’s order more or less sentenced the others to follow suit.

Though many restaurants are maintaining take-out service, the shutdown inevitably took its toll on the area service industry.

This spurred some to leap into action and lend a helping hand. Notably, on that same day, March 20, two county residents launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to benefit out-of-work servers, hosts and bartenders.

Josh Hanson and Kate Cullen own Party Animal Vodka, so they know a things or two about the importance of servers and bartenders. They opened the GoFundMe page on Friday and by Monday, it had cracked $4,000. By the following Friday, it had raised more than $30,000.

When it closed on March 31, a total of 297 donors had contributed $41,740. That number is more than four times the original objective of $10,000 set on March 20.

In a statement released on the Go-FundMe page on Tuesday, Hanson and Cullen expressed their immense gratitude at the way the community pulled together to do something objectively good, and in numbers far exceeding anyone’s expectations.

During the 11-day period in which Hanson and Cullen were accepting donations, they were also compiling a list of recipients.

Out-of-work servers who were facing financial uncertainty to come were encouraged to reach out via their restaurant or bar managers.

By Tuesday, a final total of 310 people were confirmed as recipients. Since GoFundMe collects a smattering of fees from each successful fundraiser, the total funds for distribution amount to $40,438.78, meaning each of the 310 recipients will be directly granted $130.45. They should receive that help by the end of the week, Hanson and Cullen said.

Hanson said he and Cullen hope that these sums may alleviate some of the financial pressure people are feeling in the weeks to come.

“Keep pushing forward everyone, continue to help each other out, and we can get through this in decent shape,” the pair said.

In yesterday’s statement, the fund organizers announced that, for the time being, they will leave the GoFundMe page active and will donate 100 percent of all new proceeds directly to the Blaine County Charitable Fund—recently founded and designed to help locals struggling with their finances during the pandemic—or other area relief efforts.

To donate, visit bit.ly/39f0LNo.

Learn more about the Blaine County Charitable Fund at www.blainecf.org.

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