Counter clerk checking order

Back to work and helping others

The El Paso Community Foundation and the innovative jobs program it launched for restaurant workers

In the West Texas border town of El Paso, the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus hit one group especially hard. When unemployment spiked in the spring of 2020, nearly a third of jobless claims filed were by restaurant and food service workers. By June of that year, the number of people working in the leisure and hospitality industry overall was down 40% from a year earlier.

One of those newly unemployed workers was Karen Gurrola, a then-24-year-old El Paso bartender and nursing student. Early in the year, she was balancing work and school, even finding time to travel. “After the quarantine, my life changed completely,” she says. “I lost my job, and I lost a semester of school.”

As a funder of hundreds of local charities, the El Paso Community Foundation (EPCF) was poised to help community members like Gurrola. “We knew people would be out of work,” says CEO Eric Pearson. “And we knew the largest sector affected by far was food and hospitality.”

At the same time, across the state in Dallas, another program called Get Shift Done was hiring laid-off restaurant and food service workers to help feed the hungry. Within days of hearing about Get Shift Done, the EPCF was able to get their own chapter up and running in El Paso. Get Shift Done El Paso paid workers $10 an hour ($13 for managers) to package and deliver meals for the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, a local nonprofit that has long been a recipient of EPCF funds.

If we have compassion for others, this shared experience will strengthen our society.
Eric Pearson  |  CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation

The El Paso Community Foundation covered 100% of the $25,000 to $30,000 weekly costs of the operation and provided a staff member to help run it, relying on donations from partners like Bank of America, which provided a $75,000 grant. “We applied the bank donation directly to this initiative,” says Pearson.

With support for organizations like El Paso Get Shift Done, “we are trying to lead the community into the future,” says Pearson. The outpouring of support shown by donors and members of the community should have lasting benefits, he adds. “If we have compassion for others, this shared experience will strengthen our society. That’s a good thing.”

As nonprofits adjust to address evolving needs in their local communities, Bank of America is committed to supporting them. Learn more about the bank’s $100 million philanthropic commitment to more than 1,300 nonprofits on the front lines, as well as the bank’s $250 million capital commitment to assisting local businesses.

Originally published 08/05/20