They make your coffee, serve you lunch and check you into your vacation rental.
Now, British Columbia’s hospitality industry is asking for a little help of its own.
The B.C. Hospitality Foundation is hoping to raise $100,000 for a program that gives grants to service workers facing medical hardship.
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“We help with out of town treatments, medical equipment, and we help to bridge the financial gap sometimes between when EI or disability run out or you max out of your medical benefits,” foundation executive director Alana Dickson explained.
The foundation relies on its annual Spirit of Hospitality Lottery to fund the program, but so far has managed to bring in just under a quarter of its goal.
It comes at a time when the funds are needed more than ever.
“We all know the cost of living is much higher than it has been in the past few years, we also know the hospitality industry has really struggled during the pandemic,” Dickson explained.
“In the last year we have seen double the number of requests coming in for funding.”
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Last year, the program helped 30 people stay afloat during medical crisis or cover unexpected medical costs.
Since the program’s inception in 2017, it’s helped hospitality workers with more than $1.6 million dollars.
“Everybody knows someone in the hospitality industry — career professionals, or someone who is getting their first job at a hotel or pub or a restaurant — often cases they don’t have full employee benefits or they end up in a financial crisis because of a medical condition beyond their control,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licencees of B.C.
“The work we do makes a massive difference to these people’s lives: sometimes its a matter of helping someone take a month off work so they can treat their medical condition and if we weren’t there to step in they would lose their apartment, we’ve helped people get a wheelchair they couldn’t otherwise afford.”
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Guignard said the hospitality industry understands better than anyone that times are tough right now, but that contributing could make a life-changing difference for someone.
Dickson said ticket packages for the draw are available at a variety of price points ranging from $5 to $50.
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The prizes, however, include big ticket items, like a getaway to Aspen, Colo., or a two-day trip on the Rocky Mountaineer — both worth about $6,000.
Kevin Neilson, who sits on the foundation’s industry advisory council, described the hospitality industry as the “backbone” of B.C.’s economy, noting it’s one of the biggest employers in the province.
However, many workers in the industry lack a medical coverage beyond MSP — and like everyone, they’re dealing with the rising cost of living.
“When they are in a situation where they have a choice of putting food on the table, they may cut out things like medical benefits and things like that,” he said.
“It means the world, I mean they have a difficult enough time dealing with the injuries or illnesses that they’re dealing with themselves, on top of that dealing with the financial repercussions.”
Tickets in the lottery remain available until Dec. 10, with the grand prize draws on Dec. 11.
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