Servers (and chefs, bar backs, kitchen staff and anyone who works in a restaurant or bar, really) get no respect. But that's not really anything new. Unfortunately, the same generous folk who serve day in and day out, often get no medical insurance or benefits either.
That's why sisters Julia and Marie Troute founded the Servers Well, an organization that aims to provide those in the service industry not only with moral support, but also a financial cushion when things get tight, or unhealthy, or even life-threatening.
Last year, it seemed to be one thing after another affecting their tight-knit community, only it wasn't full tables, orders at the pass or the expected scheduling snafus. In retrospect, it seems there was literally a spark that set off a rather tragic chain of events.
The pair worked at Terilli's off and on during the last decade, until the devastating fire that wiped out much of that historic Lower Greenville Avenue strip took Marie's and many of their friends' workplace as well (Julia had already left Terilli's at the time of the fire. She had started a photography business and was picking up shifts at Meridian Room, where Marie is now). After that, while they and their colleagues searched for new work, or participated in fundraisers for area businesses and employees, one Terilli's colleague in particular was experiencing even bigger life trauma.
After accompanying him through an intense medical gauntlet, Lindsay Rogers lost her husband Chris to a rare cancer. In addition to taxing emotions, she faced astonishing medical bills. The sisters Troute joined forces, gathered auction items, rallied friends, service industry workers and even former regulars, and organized a fundraiser that brought in more than $5,000 to aid Rogers (more was raised apart from the event).
On June 20 of this year, they made it happen again, this time for veteran Terilli's (and more recently, Dragonfly and The Wine Therapist) employee Kaati Brehm, who was diagnosed with stage IV cervical cancer in late 2010 and is undergoing exhausting and debilitating chemotherapy which interferes with her ability to work regular shifts, if any. The Troutes doubled their goal and raised more than $6000, in addition to an online fundraising campaign earning almost as much, to assist Brehm with bills and expenses.
As Julia Troute stated in the call to arms on the Well's homepage:
"The Servers Well is a concept born out of necessity. We keep having fundraisers when something bad happens to one of us (and I say this with love because I am one of the people throwing the fundraisers). So, yes, we keep raising money, which is wonderful, but, in many cases, we're starting too late. We need to be more aggressive. We need to get out in front of this before it's too late for any more of us... before it's too late for even ONE more of us."
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Now, perhaps poetically, in time for Terilli's predicted reopening later this summer, the Servers Well is official, having received its non-profit status just last week. That means there's just a little matter of raising $850 required for tax exemption, but [Julia] Troute says she hopes donations will continue to flow, or a sponsor will step forward. Due to the status, however, fundraisers will no longer be focused on individuals, but instead on building a pool of resources so that the organization can serve (naturally) clients on a broader scale.
There is also a push for service industry pros to register now with the Well as "Advocates" so they can be a part of the movement from the beginning, help brainstorm fundraising plans, and set goals for the future: things like setting up industry nights, establishing sponsorships and developing offshoots of the Well for artists and musicians.
So, today from 2 to 5 p.m. The Servers Well is setting up shop at the Pearl Cup, 1900 N. Henderson Ave., for the inaugural meeting of the Servers Well Advocates, during which there will be discussions on all of the above and more. Those in the service industry may RSVP via Facebook. It is a come-and-go event (timed appropriately post-lunch rush/pre-dinner shifts). And the
tip jar donation pot will of course be open to receive.