With the continuation of indoor dining closures in Michigan due to pandemic measures, many wait staff employees working in the service industry have likely faced economic struggles beyond what some other workers confronted with recent unemployment have endured. Wait staff – particularly those employed at hospitality businesses as waiters, waitresses and bartenders – are often dependent on tips as a critical portion of income. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in Michigan, like many states, the restaurant industry generally offers the lowest paying minimum wage, which is then supplemented by tips. Most wait staff workers make approximately $3.67 per hour – before tips. Because of the low hourly amount, many wait staff employees, faced with unemployment, have been unable to collect benefits both because they earn too little and many are part-time. There is lengthy and even controversial reasoning behind this unemployment issue, but setting aside the ins-and-outs of legislative rhetoric, one local couple is stepping up to help – and in a big way – and they are asking everyone who can to step up and help, too.
Tim and Tracie Baise are possibly best known for their involvement with Homeless Angels, both of Lansing and Owosso. The Baise couple operates the nonprofit organization, focusing on rebuilding and restoring “faith in humanity” by helping to recondition homeless people toward a better life. Just over a year ago, Tim and Tracie, working with director Shelly Ochodnicky, opened the Owosso Homeless Angels Campus on N. Park Street, donating their property to the effort.
This year has introduced an avalanche of new struggles for both the homeless and low-income population, and Tim and Tracie are all too aware of the complexities behind many of these struggles.
Watching a televised news report together a few weeks back, Tim and Tracie were disheartened to learn of several more weeks of shutdown. Tracie at first suggested a small, matching fundraising campaign to help some people they know and Tim agreed. However, that night he could not sleep. “I was sickened and heartbroken,” he shared. “It was heavy on my heart and God kept putting a quarter million dollars in my mind. So, I told Tracie that I feel we gotta do something more.”
That “something more” included a donation of $250,000 toward a goal of $500,000 in an online Go-Fund-Me campaign. The “Serving Those Who Normally Serve Us” campaign was at $291,408 as of Monday afternoon, Dec. 28 after just nine days. The idea is to help at least 1,000 Michigan waiters and/or waitresses. All proceeds from this effort will go directly in support of Michigan wait staff, including anyone from Shiawassee County who would like to apply. A Sign Up Genius application link is provided at the bottom of the Go-Fund-Me page for servers who have faced negative income impact due to the shutdown.
As Tim states on the Go-Fund-Me page, “I have been toiling with this all night because the number God put on my heart was so large that it honestly gave me a belly ache, but after spending hours trying to beat this number into something more manageable, I realized I would rather have an upset stomach caused by uncertainty for a moment than a calloused heart of guilty conscience for the long haul, so out of obedience, me and my wife donated the first $250,000 toward the goal set.” The campaign marks a first that the couple has ever used Go-Fund-Me, but such is their commitment to helping, they are eager to get the word out to every possible source.
“We keep hearing all sorts of horror stories,” Tim shared in a phone call. “Lots of single moms with two or three kids and there is nothing they can do about it. It’s the saddest thing. There is nothing they can do to help compensate for the loss in income. Many are still waiting for compensation from March. They still don’t have anything,” he said, referring to unemployment benefits.
“I would just love to have churches and groups behind me to push this thing,” said Tim. “This is going to take a grass roots effort. We need people that have a caring heart and just want to help.”
To make a donation, the public can visit the Go-Fund-Me page at www.gofundme.com under “Serving Those Who Normally Serve Us.” Checks may also be mailed in or dropped off. Please use the memo line on the check to identify the donation is for “Serving Those.” The address for Homeless Angels is 3216 W. Main St., Lansing, MI 47917. The Owosso campus is located at 218 N. Park St., Owosso. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and will go directly in support of struggling wait staff.