Organizers on Fort Myers Beach rally around hospitality workers

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Credit: WINK News.

In times like these, some people would give the shirt off of their backs to help others. In a story we followed, they’re putting on the shirts to do it. We looked at what some people in Southwest Florida are doing to help support those who drive the local economy.

Organizers on Fort Myers Beach are rallying around its hospitality industry during amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has put many people in the industry out of work and hurt it significantly.

“Right now, we’re in the busiest season and dealing with this,” said Jay Vijayan, a server and restaurant owner.

Vijayan is among many people in the local hospitality industry dealing with COVID-19 closures as a server at Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining on Fort Myers Beach.

“I’m out of a job at Fish-Tale,” Vijayan said. β€œThey’re not doing no take out, no deliveries.”

Making matters worse, Vijayan recently opened a restaurant of his own in Fort Myers

“I have to deal with the restaurant business,” Vijayan said. β€œI have to pay the rent.”

To help with that, organizers on Fort Myers Beach are making a fashion statement to benefit those members of the hospitality industry in need of a helping hand.

“It started with servers, and then we realized there’s more than just servers on Fort Myers Beach that are going to need our help,” said. Janeen Paulauskis, the owner of Barefoot Event Group.

Now, beach business leaders are selling hashtag “We are FMB” T-shirts” to raise money for hospitality workers in need.

“We decided on gift cards because, to Publix, to Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, that’s where they can get whatever they need,” Paulauskis said.

Hospitality workers must pre-register by emailing, a downloaded form from the website. They’ll also need a photo of a worker’s pay stub dated March 13 at the earliest. Verified registrants will be notified of time and location of gift card distribution.

Anyone who wants to buy a shirt can find them at Fish-Tale Marina’s ship store on Estero Boulevard.

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