When the coronavirus first came, Jessica Mylan and other employees at Sweet Red Bistro in Albany adhered to new cleaning protocols. Then, they moved to creating more space in the restaurant between tables.
Finally, Gov. Kate Brown ordered all restaurants in the state to shutter their dine-in options for the foreseeable future in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"It was abrupt," Mylan, the hospitality manager for Sweet Red, said. "It was my primary income and it completely went away."
Sweet Red Bistro and other restaurants across the mid-valley have either closed completely or are offering curbside pickup and delivery. But those services don't require as many employees, and so many, like Mylan, have found themselves filing for unemployment and without the tips they rely on.
However, serviceindustry.tips is a nationwide effort to ease the suddenness of that financial loss.
"I had heard about it on Facebook and reached out to local businesses," said Albany Downtown Association Executive Director Lise Grato, detailing her effort to start a local chapter.
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"Even as serviceindustry.tips for Albany went live, we quickly realized that there was a need throughout the Mid-Valley," Grato added. "After conversations with Jennifer Moreland, Executive Director of the Downtown Corvallis Association, and Cassie Cruze, Lebanon Downtown Association Executive Director, we determined it would be best to expand the service area and rename it Mid-Willamette Valley."
Within a few days, the mid-Willamette Valley had a new way to give back to the servers they could no longer see but who had been there at their favorite eateries for years.
Servers can log on and sign up. A simple vetting process takes place to ensure they are, in fact, an employee of a local hospitality business and then the transaction takes place between the employee and the tipper.
"It goes directly between the two people," Grato said.
So far, the program has seen more than 105,000 tips given nationwide. Locally, it's more than 150.
"It was a blessing to receive a tip from someone I didn’t even know," said Margin Coffee's Jon Eick. "It’s encouraging to experience how supportive our community has been during this time.”
Mylan has received two tips since signing up and said they not only helped her fill in the lost income she's experienced as a restaurant employee and yoga instructor, but it has helped her feel connected to her customers.
"They've written notes that say, "Hang in there Jess" and that was really sweet," she said. "It has helped and I think it's been great to see how the community has helped."
The Albany Downtown Association will be hosting a virtual happy hour on Saturday, raising awareness about the program. For more information on how to join, visit albanydowntown.com.
For more information on serviceindustry.tips or to leave a tip, visit the local link at serviceindustry.tips/en/or/albany/.