KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Restaurant workers are among the thousands struggling with unemployment in Kansas and Missouri.
More than 1,200 Kansans in the accommodation and food services industry filed initial unemployment claims last week, and in Missouri there were 60,232 unemployed workers in April.
Many restaurants are getting ready to reopen in the Kansas City metro Friday, but that doesn't mean all restaurant workers are going back to work.
Kansas City, Kansas, resident Samantha Ponce created a Facebook group called 'Adopt A Server - KC' to help them out.
"I was a single mom as a server, and I know that if I was a server now it would be devastating for me," Ponce said.
Ponce said she got the idea from a similar group in St. Louis, and she knew Kansas City could use it too. The group connects people who are willing to help with restaurant workers who have been laid off. Ponce said she uses Amazon wishlist to let people send essential, non-expensive items directly to workers.
"It doesn't take a lot of money, we're not trying to solve their entire problems," Ponce said. "We're just trying to give them a little hope, a little sense of peace and a sense that someone out there cares about them."
Those small, but important items go to people like Leigh Woods, who was laid off from her bartender and server jobs in March.
"It blows my mind, and it honestly restores so much of my faith in humanity," Woods said.
Woods said the group as helped relieve some of her financial stress.
"It's just fascinating how generous these people are," Woods said.
Kansas City bartender and server Heather Mynatt said she was working at three restaurants and bars when she was laid off. She received several essential items like deodorant and dog treats from her adopter.
"It's very appreciated," Mynatt said. "It's just amazing to see the generosity of strangers."
Mynatt hopes other people will see the group's value.
"Think about it as — when you go out to eat, we're the ones that take care of you, and it's now our turn to get a hand," Mynatt said.
While the group is titled 'Adopt A Server - KC,' Ponce said it is not exclusively for people in the restaurant industry, but anyone who has been laid off due to COVID-19.
"I think it just brings them a sense of peace that they can get through this," Ponce said.