As marches take place across the nation to campaign for raising the minimum wage, it should come as no surprise that many members of our service industries aren’t at the top of the financial food chain. So when an unexpected hardship crops up, such as medical emergency or a debilitating accident, these workers now have two uphill battles to fight: health and financial stability. Local nonprofit The Giving Kitchen aims to help them win those battles. TGK, launched after a 2012 outpouring of support for Chef Ryan Hidinger’s cancer battle, provides financial support to Atlanta’s restaurant workers in the form of grants, helping them recover and thrive.
Case in point: the story of Kia Presley Meade. “She fell off an embankment while on vacation, breaking both of her arms and sustaining a traumatic brain injury,” says Stephanie Galer, TGK’s executive director. While normally a situation like that might result in weeks or months of lost wages and medical bill struggles, TGK worked with Meade’s employer, Augustine’s, to award her a financial grant and help her get back to work. “They were incredibly supportive,” Galer says of Augustine’s. “They found some seated work for Kia to do during her recovery and rehabilitation, and Kia was back to bartending within months of her accident.”
Those gestures of support, accommodation and encouragement that helped Meade are the same principles driving TGK”s new venture, Staplehouse. This restaurant, currently under construction in Old Fourth Ward, is the brainchild of TGK’s original beneficiary, Ryan Hidinger. He and his wife Jen ran a small supper club out of their home, called Staplehouse, eventually wanting to open a “mom and pop” restaurant. Jen and TGK are continuing Ryan’s legacy opening the restaurant, which will provide steady revenue for TGK’s ongoing work. Look for Staplehouse’s opening later this year.