Funds will support hospitality and service workers amid ongoing pandemic.
Published on: 03-05-2021
When the Shelby County Health Department in Tennessee, United States, placed significant restrictions on area restaurants and other businesses in December 2020 because of the coronavirus, Seventh-day Adventist church member Reginald Coopwood and his family decided to do something to help those affected.
The Coopwoods set up the “Pay It Forward Mid-South” campaign, which ran through January 31, 2021. During that time, all donations to the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund were directed to agencies supporting hospitality and service industry workers who lost employment or whose work hours and pay were decreased, according to the website of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, which oversees the Response Fund.
Shelby County restaurants were limited to 25-percent capacity for indoor dining, which meant likely hardship for hundreds of workers in the hospitality and service industries.
Coopwood, who is president and CEO of Regional One Health, said that one Saturday [Sabbath] he was reading a book entitled Double Blessing by Mark Batterson, about the “blessing of giving,” when God gave him an idea.
“As I was reading, the Lord put this on me pretty hard,” Coopwood recalled. “I thought, let’s do something for the workers. I put the book down, and that’s when I called my wife and said, the Lord has put this on me. She accepted it as well, and that’s how it took off.”
“When Reggie came to me with what the Lord put on his heart, I just kind of went into operation mode,” Erica Stiff-Coopwood said.
The couple’s daughters — ages 15 and 12 — came up with the name for the campaign. Erica contacted her friend, Kimberly Perry, whose husband, retired NBA player Elliot Perry, is on the Community Foundation board.
“I thought about who can help us get this word out the quickest,” Erica said. “And Elliott and Kim are both our mutual friends. Reggie gave Elliott a call, and they were both excited about it.”
It wasn’t long before the support started pouring in.
Regional One Health, Baptist Memorial Health Care, and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare made the leadoff gifts, totaling US$100,000, to the campaign. FedEx, First Horizon, Truist, and other businesses joined in soon afterward to push the fund to more than US$200,000.
The Coopwoods launched a social media challenge to other businesses and the community, and they were interviewed by a local television station. By the end of the campaign on January 31, close to US$500,000 had been raised.
The Coopwoods say the spirit of giving is powerful, and they hope others will be touched by it.
“We don’t give to get, but we get in order to give,” Stiff-Coopwood said. “The needs of people can be met if more people adopt that mindset.”