Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Helping Those Who Serve

Photos by Coastal Breeze News Staff | Jerry Oppenberg, third from front presents Publix gift cards to restauranteur Luigi Carvelli for the staff of Davinci’s Restaurant, Marco Prime & Seafood, The Oyster Society and the Snook Inn.

Past experience provided inspiration for an innovative approach to helping ease the Coronavirus’ economic impact on the lives of Marco’s restaurant employees 

Keller Williams Realty Marco Island is distributing more than $10,000 worth of Publix Super Market gift cards to the workers at 45 of the island’s eateries. They were purchased with the proceeds of the office’s fundraiser held to observe Keller Williams Realty International’s annual RED Day global day of service. Held the second Thursday in May, RED stands for Renew, Energize and Donate.  

“Over 185,000 Keller Williams agents worldwide stop their busy day and they celebrate Red Day by doing something for the community,” explained Jerry Oppenberg, a Realtor at the Marco office who led its RED Day committee. “This year, it was a no-brainer for us. We knew that with COVID-19, we had to do something to help these families in need.”  

In the past, the office has observed RED Day with such things as trimming brush and branches at Marco Island Academy’s campus, beach cleanups, blood drives, food drives and assisting on erecting a Habitat for Humanity house.  

This year’s effort sprang from the imagination of another Realtor at the Marco office named Cathy Ahern. “I knew that restaurant workers were in trouble,” she said. “I’d waitressed all the way through college and I know that you rely on your tips. I had seen on TV where elsewhere in the country they had done virtual tip jars and I thought, ‘Hey, what a good idea.’ So, I presented it to our RED Day committee here.”  

Next, the office and its Naples counterpart teamed up to raise funds for restaurant workers in their respective communities. The partnership involved the creation of a webpage and a virtual tip jar established on a GoFundMe page. The goal was to raise $20,000 that they would split evenly. 

Keller Williams Marco Island Realtor Dina Johnson (Right), presents Publix gift cards to Nacho Mama’s manager Tommy Racknor (Second from Right), Singh Gurjinder and Iris Lomas.

Ahern’s creativity also spawned another money generating suggestion for the joint effort, holding three of what she dubbed “Zoom-athons;” essentially telethons held on the Web using the Zoom meeting application.  

We all got on Zoom—fifteen, twenty, or thirty agentsand we called our clients and family and friends and asked them to donate. Which they did,” she explained. “So, we reached a little more than $20,000 in a couple weeks. 

The giveaway will include a little more than 400 gift cards, in denominations of $25, for the island’s restaurant workers. Keller Williams’ Marco office began distributing them last week 

“We eliminated the hotels because we knew they were taking care of them and some restaurants that are strictly takeout; they really don’t rely on tips,” said Oppenberg. “We were really looking for people who work mostly for tips. 

He said it’s been left up the restaurant’s owners and managers to use their discretion in dispersing the cards to staff members who are most in need.  

Obviously there are a lot of people suffering right now in dire straits,” added Oppenberg. “They don’t have money for food. Even though the restaurants have been open for a while, with curbside pick-up and deliveries, they didn’t need their bartenders; they didn’t need their waiters or waitresses. A lot of them were really in bad shape. I chaired the committee here on Marco and I have to tell you, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.” 

Keller Williams Realty Marco Island is located at 830 Bald Eagle Drive. For more information, visit www.kw.com or call 239-314-9100. 

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