Hey, friends. It's my birthday today. (The Big 4-6.) So far, things are going very well. My party is cancelled, all the restaurants are closed, there is no basketball to be watched or played, and I'm not even supposed to visit my Mom.
With my plans (read: life) in tatters, I'm asking you all to make it a little better by giving me a birthday gift.
What I want for my birthday this year is your help in trying to save--or at least to stabilize until hoped-for government funding arrives--a few of Milwaukee's best restaurants and cafes during this time of crisis. If you've known me for a decade or a day, you probably know my views on the absolutely essential role that such places play in shaping the identity of cities, in binding people together, and in serving as the subject for breathtaking Instagram photography.
In seriousness, Milwaukee has some irreplaceable culinary assets that simply can't be allowed to become casualties of this health emergency in which we currently find ourselves. The names of these places are the same ones I text you back when you message me inquiring about where you should eat or drink. And I'm asking you to trust me to make some strategic donations to the most vulnerable of those in an attempt to ensure their survival.
Here's how it works: in a nod to my ever-advancing age, Julie and I will match the first $4600 in donations to a new fund we've just established and for which we've set an initial goal of $25,000 (see link below). This money will be paid directly to restaurant/cafe owners in increments of $500, $1000, or $2500 depending on need, and will be earmarked to compensate members of their staff (whether still working or not). While I'll make the ultimate funding decisions, there will be a final report that accounts for every dollar donated.
In exchange, we get nothing. No gift cards, no product, no promises of future dinners. But I know these people personally, and let me tell you they will never forget what you did to help.
Recommended Giving Levels:
If you ever saw a restaurant status or food picture I posted, were inspired to try the spot or dish, and enjoyed it, give $1 to $25.
If you have ever called me or texted me for a restaurant recommendation, give $25 to $50.
If you have ever texted me from a table at a restaurant and asked what to order, give $50 to 100.
And finally, if you have ever dined with me and, at the end of the meal, I picked up the check, please considering giving $100 to $500. (The next one will be on me.)
Thanks to all of you for your consideration. These are difficult times for all of us, but together, we'll get through it. And when we do, let's make sure we've preserved as much of our culinary (and cultural) identity as we possibly could have.
UPDATE #2: GoFundMe has re-opened the campaign after a temporary pause for verification and we are good to go accepting donations again.
While we were down on that platform, additional donations totaling $3,125 were received through Venmo -- taking the total raised so far to $25,046!
I'm just speechless. (And that is rare.)
Even though our arbitrary goal, which is obviously a fraction of the actual need, has been met, we plan to keep going as long as the media and donors are engaged and money is coming in. But as I mentioned below, I do not plan to wait for the close of the campaign to distribute to our first six recipients (identified below), as that money is needed now.
THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT. Please continue to spread the word. <3
UPDATE #1: Let me start by thanking everyone who has donated so far. The one-day response to this campaign exceeded all expectations , and Julie's and my hearts are full.
Due the the incredible success we've had, GoFundME has asked that I provide "some additional transparency" about the campaign (certainly in an effort to make sure that this isn't a fraud). No problem! Although I really wish they hadn't suspended the campaign while I provide that information.
Anyway, here are my answers to the questions:
1. "Who are you and where are you from?" I'm C.J. I'm from Milwaukee. I've never done this before. And I'm just trying to help some local businesses through a tough time.
2. "Your relationship or contact to the intended recipients of your campaign’s donations." My primary relationship with the intended recipients is as a patron of their restaurants/cafes, though some of them have become friends. I am not an owner or investor in any of the businesses. I have been in contact over the past 24 hours with most of the first wave of intended recipients, including Caitlin Cullen of the Tandem; Milunka Radicevic of Three Brothers; Katie Rose of Goodkind; Zak and Sarah Baker of Ca'Lucchenzo; Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie; and Ryan Hoban of Interval and Pilcrow Coffee. They are obviously eager to receive the donations, which I plan to start distributing from my own pocket even before we close the campaign.
3. "A clear explanation of how the donations will be spent." All of the money donated will be paid directly to the owners to help support themselves and their staff during this business interruption. They will be the ones to decide how it is best allocated.
4. "Your plan to get the campaign’s donations to the intended recipients." I am either going to hand them checks (by placing them at a safe distance--at least six feet--for human collection or provide the money via electonic transfer. I hope to start doing this as soon as the weekend.
I'm told that GoFundMe's review of this could take up to one business day. If you want to keep giving though that process and trust that I'm not about to abscond, please consider sending money to my Venmo (CJ-Krawczyk), Paypal ([email redacted].com), or e-mail at [email redacted] to make other arrangements.
And while I figure out the red tape, you can read about us in the news: https://www.jsonline.com/story/entertainment/2020/03/19/birthday-gofundme-raises-16-k-18-hours-help-restaurants-during-coronavirus/2880180001/
With love and gratitude,