Updated June 1, 2021
Covid-19 devastated the hospitality industry, with countless hotels around the world forced to shut down temporarily and reduce their workforces last year. To aid those hardest hit by the pandemic, The Above and Beyond Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and rewarding frontline hospitality workers, has raised $610,000 since April 2020, all of which has been used to issue $500 grants to workers who lost their jobs.
"Within weeks of the pandemic hitting, we started handing out grants," said Mary Jo Valentine Blythe, founder and CEO of TAABF. "We have hundreds of thank you notes and emails from the individuals that we've helped. We feel good about what we've done so far. It's exciting that we can continue the program."
With hotels now reopening, the organization will now be transforming its Helping Hospitality grants. Lower-level hospitality workers in need of financial assistance for a current hardship, such as a life-threatening illness, will be able to apply for the $500 grants. Both part-time and hourly employees are eligible. The grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and all requests are vetted by the foundation.
TAABF has also launched a new grant program, Heroes of Hospitality, $2,500 grants for frontline workers who have performed extraordinary acts of service over the past year, such as those who held onto their jobs and ended up doing the work of multiple people. Managers are invited to nominate eligible employees for consideration.
"There were quite a few hospitality industry workers who were employed through this whole situation, and we've discovered that a lot of these people were doing the jobs of five or six people," said Blythe. "They'd be working the front door, go check someone in and then work in room service and make the beds, etc. In speaking with some higher-level people in the industry, they said it was really all hands on deck. There were so many people who really came through and gave it their all. We'd like to recognize that."
A third grant program, Heart of Hospitality, was paused during the pandemic and is expected to resume in Q4 2021. This award recognizes employees who consistently go above and beyond with a reward of $10,000. Employers may only submit one application for the Heart of Hospitality program per year.
For planners returning to live events this year, the organization has unveiled a new social-responsibility initiative that can be incorporated into a meeting's agenda. The Boomerang program invites meeting attendees to nominate on-site hospitality workers who provide outstanding service during the gathering. The audience then votes on all nominations. Winners are recognized with a financial grant, and recognized during an awards ceremony at the end of the event.
"People are anxious to get back to business and get back to meeting," said Blythe. "This is a live, interactive way to reward and support the hospitality people that individuals come into contact with — and the fact that it doesn't take any time away from the agenda is a big plus."
To continue providing aid to hospitality workers in need in the weeks and months to come, TAABF is calling on people to donate whatever they can to help sponsor one of the grant programs, or consider partnering on a CSR initiative for an upcoming meeting.