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'Every little thing is helpful': Food drive feeds hundreds out of work in hotel industry


Hospitality food drive held at Embassy Suites by Hilton in Old Town Alexandria. Photo by Jay Korff/ABC7 News
Hospitality food drive held at Embassy Suites by Hilton in Old Town Alexandria. Photo by Jay Korff/ABC7 News
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At the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Old Town Alexandria, carts loaded pre-pandemic with luggage were used Thursday to carry food to hospitality workers reeling.

"It’s heartbreaking that our industry has been hit so hard. The industry is suffering. People are suffering," says Liz Dane, chair of the Convention and Visitors Bureau Reps.

According to Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness 70-percent of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed in 2020 leading to billions of dollars in weekly lost wages.

Dane adds, “Many of our hotels and attractions are sitting empty. That’s all of those jobs that are gone, and it’s devastating, and we need to help and we need to get it back on its feet again.”

So, this week DC-based CVB Reps partnered with Visit Alexandria and United Community’s food bank to solicit, collect and distribute a week’s worth of non-perishables to hundreds of people out of work.

“Every little thing really is helpful," says Deborah Cole.

Deborah Cole was furloughed five months ago from her hotel.

“It’s difficult because I’ve worked all my life. I’ve never been in a predicament like this where you have a lot of uncertainty.”

Jamie, a veteran of the convention industry, lost her dream job in mid-March when the pandemic hit. She's been searching for work in her industry ever since.

On Thursday, she felt it was important to come to this event as a volunteer. A big concern for her has been the ripple effect this economic crisis has had on so many communities.

Jamie says, “I know my former employer, their occupancy levels are half of what they used to be and that’s impactful not just to our individual companies, but to the communities as a whole because if people aren’t coming in for meetings, they’re not spending money.”

Carla Bascope-Hebble with Visit Alexandria says she’s seeing progress. More people are meeting in smaller groups. And in time, she believes this industry will once again thrive. To get there, she's helping nourish those in need.

“It’s hope that we are helping that family have a meal tonight. It’s a domino effect and if we can bring a little bit of hope and positive thinking to our industry, that’s what we want to do," says Bascope-Hebble.

Hope for people like a recipient who told us he'd been out of work for six months.

“Thank you. Thank you. God bless you," he told us.

Dane concludes, “We do feel it will come back. We know that people are anxious to meet again and they’re going to meet when It’s safe to do so.”

7 On Your Side is committed to providing you information about services and opportunities that may help you during the pandemic.

Click here for more information on a City of Alexandria and Arlington County initiative that connects job seekers with employers.

Click here for more information on Rapid Response: an initiative helping people impacted by layoffs at Dulles and Reagan National airports, including hospitality workers.

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Click here for the City of Alexandria's comprehensive site that touches on everything COVID-19 related: from information about where to get tested, how to stay safe and opportunities for assistance.

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