Unemployed worker from Midland County volunteers while receiving assistance

Kira Aiken received a box of free food and helped pass out thousands of others
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 3:10 PM EST
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MIDLAND, Mich. (WJRT) - Thousands of restaurant employees around Michigan remain off the job and in need.

A drive thru-food giveaway in Midland on Tuesday helped hospitality workers in the Great Lakes Bay Region who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. One worker not only showed up to take home one of those boxes, but also to help make sure others got one as well.

Kira Aiken would normally be getting ready for her shift as a bartender at the Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom in Midland on a normal Tuesday afternoon, but she has seen her hours greatly reduced and job changed to that of a takeout server like thousands of others in restaurant industry.

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order requires all restaurants to close for dine-in through Jan. 15. This is the second prolonged shutdown for restaurants over the past 10 months.

“I understand that it’s for the greater good, but I wish there that were a little bit more safety nets in place for the folks whose jobs were just up and gone. Like we didn’t have anything,” Aiken said.

She has been forced to move back home with her parents.

“So that was kind of tough, but I know my friends that have kids and losing their jobs two weeks before Christmas was really, really difficult,” Aiken said.

It’s why she showed up at the Valley Lanes Family Entertainment and Great Hall Banquet and Convention Center on Tuesday and got to work volunteering. She helped give out boxes of food to hospitality workers like herself.

Over the past 10 months, Aiken has been on the receiving of these kind of events, so she wanted to pay it forward by helping out.

“Community outreach programs like in Midland really helped me out a lot,” she said. “They gave away gift cards for groceries. They gave away food boxes all the time. So when I heard about this volunteer opportunity, I was really excited to help.”

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation and the Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund hosted Tuesday’s giveaway with food donated by Sysco of Michigan. They have given out more than 18,000 meals to restaurant workers over the last two weeks.

Aiken said every little bit of help means a lot.

“It’s just a really really trying time and it’s really nice to see the way that our community has come together, especially the food industry because we are kind of hurting right now,” she said.

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