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With help from The Lee Initiative and Maker’s Mark, Lexington launches restaurant workers relief program


The last nine days might’ve seemed like the longest nine days of the year, but that’s probably most apparent for those in the service industry.

On March 16, Governor Beshear banned all-in person dining at restaurants and bars, which left many service industry professionals suddenly without a job and paycheck. 

“Think about close to 20,000 people losing their jobs in one day. Losing their livelihood and security. These are people who live check to check, and all of a sudden that check is gone,” says Sam Fore, coordinator for the Lexington program.

In response to the ban, multiple campaigns were launched to help support those affected by the ban, including The Restaurant Workers Relief Program in partnership with The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark.

On Thursday, March 26, Great Bagel & Bakery on Boston Road will transform into a relief center for any restaurant worker who has been laid off or has had a significant reduction in hours and/or pay. 

Each night, hundreds of to go dinners will be packed and served to recently unemployed restaurant workers on a first come first serve basis. A roster of five chefs are lined up to prepare the food while volunteers hand out 250-300 meals each night.

Great Bagel & Bakery has one of the biggest kitchens in the community, but it also helps that owner Lara Swan is part of the LexUnite team and the self-starter who is building a network of volunteers.

“Lara has been a champion and that needs to be said. There are people that ask what can I do and there are people that say this is what I have to do and she is the latter,” says Fore.

It wasn’t even 24 hours after the in-person dining ban was announced that the LexUnite campaign was organized to show the community that there are still ways to support restaurants through gift cards and online ordering.

“That’s the kind of work ethic and vision we need right now because if it weren’t for that I guarantee that we wouldn’t have a functioning program in Lexington this week,” says Fore.

Most importantly, the program would not be possible without the Lee Initiative and Maker’s Mark, who both allocated funds to help multiple cities launch this program.

Maker’s Mark reallocated the funding they had from cancelled or postponed events into the restaurant workers relief program. On the morning that the in-person dining ban was put into place, Thomas Bolton of Maker’s Mark took a phone call with Lindsey Ofcacek of The Lee Initiative. By 5 o’clock the following evening, the first relief center was up and running in Louisville.

“The reason this is so important to Maker’s Mark is that Maker Mark’s and bourbon would not be where it is today without the service industry,” says Bolton, who is the Distillery Diplomat for Maker’s Mark.

He continues, “They took care of us and now it’s our turn to take care of them. The service industry to Maker’s Mark is family, and when family needs help you help them.”

The initial funding comes from Maker’s Mark, but each city’s relief program is also individually funded by the people who live and work in that community. 

doodles breakfast and lunch dropping off supplies at Great Bagel & Bakery

The best way for the community to help support the program in Lexington is through monetary and household good donations. Along with free to go dinners, supplies will be handed out for those in need. Supplies include diapers, baby food, non-perishable canned foods and cereals, toilet paper, and more.

The Lee Initiative website allows for people to pick the specific city where their funding is allocated. If you choose to donate to Lexington then all proceeds will go directly back to supporting the program here.

“We have the opportunity to feed people, but we need to make sure the funding keeps people fed. As this crisis continues it’s going to be a ripple effect across industries and we are not the type of people who will turn people away when they need help.”

The restaurant workers relief center will be offered at Great Bagel & Bakery for at least ten days and hopefully longer, but only as long as it can be financially supported.

“The more people we can tell about this program, the more people we can impact through this situation,” says Kristy Maggard, a Lee Initiative volunteer.  “Food is vital to our community, and now we can come together to rally behind this industry that is the backbone of our community.”

“Anything we can do to support our community and get through this crisis in as close to one piece is a win. And right now we are going for as many wins as possible,” says Fore. “There will be a lot over the next couple of weeks that is going to be discouraging, but every win we can get is a win for Lexington and a win for our community. We are taking care of each other.”


Dinners will be offered on a first come first serve basis at Great Bagel & Bakery at 3650 Boston Road, Suite 108.

Pick up time is 5pm to 7pm nightly until otherwise notified.

Limit 1 to a person unless there is an emergency situation. No one is allowed entry into the restaurant.

Everyone must show proper ID and have some identifying paperwork to prove recent employment at a restaurant. A pay stub will suffice in most cases.

For all monetary donations, please visit www.LEEInitiative.org to donate online. Donations and supplies can be dropped off at Great Bagel & Bakery on Boston Rd.


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