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Relief fund helps restaurant workers after recent disasters

The view of the mountains from outside of K-Bob’s Steakhouse during the South Fork and Salt fires via K-Bob’s Ruidoso Facebook page
The view of the mountains from outside of K-Bob’s Steakhouse during the South Fork and Salt fires via K-Bob’s Ruidoso Facebook page

Two organizations in New Mexico are providing relief to hospitality workers who lost jobs due to the natural disasters in the Mescalero Apache reservation, Ruidoso and Las Vegas. But– their funds are depleting fast.

The Hospitality Industry Education Foundation works with the New Mexico Restaurant Association to support people working in the food industry with things like scholarships and training.

But right now its most urgent focus is helping people who temporarily or permanently lost their jobs due to wildfires around Ruidoso and Mescalero, and flooding near Las Vegas. The relief fund has given over $60,000.

Tom Schuch is executive director of the foundation and has worked in the restaurant industry most of his life. He says that he knows these times are devastating for folks.

“All these little things in our lives that add up – called bills –, and now they have to pay for it. They need money for that, it’s what we can do to help them,” said Schuch.

More applications are pouring in, but the fund is running out of money.

“I mean this is just the start of the fire season, who knows what’s gonna happen the rest of the summer,” Schuch said.

While many are applying for help now because of the disasters, the fund takes applications year round from those in the industry in need of support.

Jeff Cordero is the general manager of K-Bob’s steakhouse in Ruidoso. He and a few employees stayed at the restaurant during the fires to feed those working to put them out.

Several folks from the restaurant applied to the fund for relief.

“I mean, every little bit helps,” Cordero said.

He's grateful for the generosity and community of New Mexico, but says their town runs on tourism and they need that revenue back.

You can apply for relief or donate to the fund here. On Monday, Ruidoso began welcoming back visitors and tourists. But on Tuesday, new evacuation orders were issued for parts of the village following flooding from monsoon rains.

As of Wednesday morning, the fund application has closed. They are still accepting donations.

Mia Casas is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Journalism and Theatre at the University of New Mexico. She comes to KUNM through an internship with the New Mexico Local News Fund and is staying on as a student reporter as of fall 2023.
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