Layoffs and indefinite furloughs at Walt Disney World, other theme parks, and throughout the hospitality industry have had a disproportionate impact on Central Florida. So many have been negatively impacted–either directly or via family & friends who have lost jobs or are nervous about what the future holds. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking. (Updated December 1, 2020.)
Stories of miles-long lines at food banks or the worsening plight of low-wage service industry workers living in run-down motels in the shadow of the theme parks have become common on the Orlando and national news. Even before the latest round of Walt Disney World layoffs, there had already been a devastating and lasting impact on those who work in the travel and tourism industries.
For all of these reasons, we are strongly encouraging those of you who have the means to give back by donating to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (or one of the several other local charities listed below). This is a non-profit that collects, stores, and distributes millions of meals per year to relieve hunger in the local community. Second Harvest is an efficient and large-scale 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization with a Four Star Charity rating (the highest score) on Charity Navigator. They are also supported directly by Walt Disney World.
In the past, many readers have asked how they can support the blog since we don’t do Patreon or subscriptions. This your answer. If you like this blog and have found it has helped improve or add value to your vacations, please donate to Second Harvest. If it hasn’t been particularly helpful, but has provided some amusement or been a nice time killer, please donate to Second Harvest. If you’ve found the blog neither helpful nor amusing and you only “hate-read” it, but you want to help make a difference, please donate to Second Harvest.
To get the ball rolling, Sarah and I have donated $500 to preemptively “match” the first donations by readers. We are confident you all will help us come through and hit our donation target. Our sincere hope is that we can raise many thousands of dollars beyond that.
Giving Tuesday Update: With your help and support, we quickly blew past our original goal and have now raised over $64,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. We wanted to give an update with the tangible results of the fundraiser: a distribution consisting of two trucks filled with 60,000 pounds of food to feed families in need (video above), with still more semis to come.
We are incredibly humbled and heartened by all of your support: DTB readers proving yet again that you are all the best! Your donations thus far will fund over 250,000 meals for those in need. That’s wonderful and we couldn’t be prouder of everyone who has contributed, but with the scale of these layoffs and the unemployment numbers in Central Florida, even more help is still urgently needed in our community.
That’s why we wanted to once again bring this to your attention for Giving Tuesday. Every donation Second Harvest receives by midnight on December 1, 2020 will be doubled–up to $30,000–by Florida auto dealer Mullinax Ford. This means that every $10 donated is doubled to help provide 80 meals during the holidays, illustrating quite literally that every dollar counts!
Whether you live here in Central Florida or not, this is your community too as a Walt Disney World fan. The painful reality is that many people who only six months ago were helping make all of our vacations magical are now in need of help themselves.
The people impacted are the entertainers who brought a smile to your child’s face. Mousekeepers who work tirelessly so you have a spotless hotel room during your midday break. The behind the scenes heroes who ensure the magic fired on all cylinders. The countless other “supporting players” throughout Orlando who don’t work for Disney, but are directly impacted by these crushing blows to the region’s tourism-dependent economy. This list goes on and on.
For those of you who live in Orange County, California or visit Disneyland more frequently and would prefer to support your local community or those impacted at your home park, check out Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, California. Our friend Jeff Gordon out on the West Coast organized the “Disney Fans for Good” drive and the Disneyland fan community has likewise come together to raise an impressive amount in that virtual food drive!
As with the Central Florida branch, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, California is a member of the Feeding America charity network. That organization also has a Four Star score via Charity Navigator, and they’re also a 501 (c)(3) private nonprofit organization.
Other groups are aimed at helping families escape homelessness and motel life along Florida’s Highway 192 corridor. This impoverished working class has been an open secret in Orlando for years and was even depicted in The Florida Project, an excellent and heart-wrenching film that is only nominally fictional.
These organizations include Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, United Against Poverty Orlando, and Embrace Celebration. All are focused on providing a variety of dignity and self-sufficiency based assistance, including educational opportunities, employment training, funds assistance, and placement and the opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty.
If you want to help other related causes, there are also several grassroots organizations that have sprouted up by virtue of the initiative of individuals seeing unfulfilled needs during times of crisis. One group that has stepped up is Cast Member Pantry, which run by and for the support of Cast Members in need.
Along these lines, every week for the past several months Unite Here 737 has organized a drive-thru food bank where volunteers have handed out free boxes of groceries. This is a local union representing Walt Disney World hotel and food service Cast Members, but the food drives are for anyone in need.
This is just a partial list of the nonprofits, charities, and other organizations doing heavy-lifting here in Central Florida. If you are aware of other groups doing good for the community, please share them with us and we’ll update this section.
The last few months have been devastating and depressing, which is true for our community, nation, and world. It’s even ‘more true’ for some of you who have been personally, disproportionately impacted. Again, our hearts go out to all Cast Members and their families who are impacted by these layoffs and furloughs. We cannot fathom the devastation, fear, anxiety, and range of other emotions that comes with losing your dream position. So many Cast Members have made so much magic for all of us over the years, and this should help to begin to repay a little of that.
We feel like we know a lot of our readers, so we feel it’s appropriate to share a “we’re all in this together” message. The last several months have been incredibly trying (to put it mildly), and we cannot even imagine how much worse it has been for so many others. We hope you’re all out there staying safe and healthy, making good decisions and finding ways to persevere. This has not been easy and it probably will be a tough year to come, but we truly are all in this together.
We’ve collectively overcome a lot, including worse than this. No matter how bleak it might seem right now, things will get better. Here’s hoping we can all put this behind us as soon as possible, life can start getting back to normal, and Central Florida can fully recover and prosper. Our goal with this is to spread awareness for organizations doing good work and to ourselves support the charity best-equipped to help the largest number of people in this crisis. We truly hope you’ll join us in this effort.
Thank you for support, and for continuing to read the blog.
~Sarah & Tom Bricker