Commercial Appeal Posted “Memphis restaurants come together to help laid-off co-workers during coronavirus pandemic” which features Caritas Village.
Restaurateurs and chefs across Memphis are finding creative ways to help those in the restaurant and hospitality industry who are now without jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are a few of the stories of people doing all they can to make a difference, even as their own businesses are impacted by the outbreak.
Caritas’ Restaurant Workers Unity Project
On Wednesday, more than 200 laid-off restaurant industry workers were treated to a free to-go lunch at Caritas Community Center’s cafe.
The Binghampton community center, at 2509 Harvard Ave., was originally created to be a safe place for people to eat, meet, serve in the community and share life. Since it reopened in 2018, Caritas has operated a “pay-as-you-can” restaurant, providing meals for those who can afford to dine there and those who can’t.
Today, the community center is home to the Restaurant Workers Unity Project.
Spencer and Kristin McMillin are the driving force behind Caritas: Spencer is the executive chef and Kristin is the interim executive director. The couple was on a week-long vacation when the coronavirus started to spread across Tennessee. They left town on March 13, and by March 17, they had turned around and were headed back to Memphis.
“We knew we had to come home and help,” Spencer said. On the ride home, they decided to turn Caritas into a rescue mission.
Since March 18, Caritas has been offering free meals to those in need from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Over the past week, the McMillins have witnessed the level of need in Memphis gradually increase each day. Spencer predicts it will only get worse as more restaurants and businesses close.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming. Restaurants, farmers and food purveyors are donating food. Chefs are volunteering to work in the kitchen.
The menu reads like one at a farm-to-table restaurant, with the names of local farms and restaurants before ingredients.
For meal service on Tuesday alone, Caritas received food donations from several restaurants, including The Rendezvous, Farm & Fries, The Vault and Blue’s City Donuts. The list of farm donations included Claybrook Farms, McMerton Gardens, Sandy Ridge Farms and Fenster Farm. The list of donors varies, and grows, every day.
“Everyone is completely grateful. They appreciate being fed a free meal made with quality farm-fresh produce and meats,” Spencer said. “This whole week has been overwhelming. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do this.”
Spencer plans to keep his kitchen open for lunch as long as he can.
Spencer said Memphians can help Caritas continue to provide free meals in two ways. “Stop by for a free meal and make a donation or go online to our website and make an online donation.”