As the events coordinator of the Boulder View Tavern in Lake Harmony, Jenna Fiorentino is responsible for booking entertainment and other events throughout the year.
Whether it’s the middle of summer or the middle of ski season, she said the place is busy with customers.
But since the pandemic, there’s been no entertainment and the restaurant business was at one point reduced to just take out.
“Everyone in our restaurant has been greatly affected,” Fiorentino said. She’s worked in the position since 2018. “Because of the coronavirus, there’s not a lot for me to do. I’ve been able to hold onto my position, which I’m very thankful for and I’ve been able to do other things.”
Fiorentino received $250 from the Pocono Mountains United Way Hospitality and Restaurant Worker Relief Fund.
“It’s helped a lot,” she said. “I was a little skeptical because there are a lot of funds out there. It was definitely appreciated because the little bit of hours I’ve been to work is nothing like what I was able to bring in before COVID-19.”
The fund began in mid-December, said Sarah Jacobi, vice-president, Community Impact, Pocono Mountains United Way.
“We did it in response to the state closure of indoor dining, which has affected the industry with different closures all year long,” said Jacobi. “We developed the fund simply to help people out. We know that many people have lost a lot of income over the course of the year and they are struggling to pay their rent, put food on the table and to make sure their families have what they need.”
She said they’ve raised more than $150,000.
“Donations are coming in from all over,” she said, adding that the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau started the fund with $50,000. “It’s everything from businesses that have been able to give down to individuals that have given $10. We’re very grateful.”
Jacobi said the money will employees of the restaurant or hospitality industry in Monroe, Carbon, Wayne or Pike Counties. She said so far, they’ve helped more than 300 people with grants of $250 each. There is an application process on the United Way’s website.
She said the fund will continue until the money is gone.
Tourism is a $4 billion industry in just the Poconos Mountains, according to the Pocono Mountain Vacation Bureau. About 30,000 people work in the industry in the four-county region.
A group of car dealerships got together in Lackawanna County to put together a similar fund – so far, they’ve raised more than $61,000 and they used that money to purchase gift cards for restaurants in Lackawanna County.
“I think people are helping because it’s the best of who are as a community here in the Pocono Mountains,” said Jacobi. “We help each other out and we try to help our neighbors. I think people recognize that the restaurant industry is hurting, and these are people who serve us all year long at some of our favorite restaurants and this was our way of being able to give back.”
Fiorentino said she the last time she received a partial unemployment check was in mid-December.
“I’m going on one month without any money,” she said. “It’s scary.”