BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
A group of Palo Alto High School students has turned their annual swim-a-thon for charity into an online fundraiser for local restaurant workers.
Retail, restaurants and hotels have all been hit hard by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
Palo Alto’s downtown business area and the Town & Country Village shopping center have turned into ghost towns. Many businesses have closed and those that remain open have seen a drastic decrease in customers. Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Judy Kleinberg said some restaurants that are open have laid off almost all their employees to make ends meet.
Councilwoman Liz Kniss said she fears the downtown area won’t look the same as it used to when the pandemic is over.
“It may take some time before they can put things back together again,” she said. “I’m guessing we’re looking at the ‘new normal.’”
Kirk’s and Sancho’s
Members of HERO Swim, a group of Paly students that hold swim races at the University Club of Palo Alto to raise money for charity, decided they wanted to help.
The students started a GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/kirk039s-and-sanchos-employee-relief-fund) to raise money for workers from Kirk’s Steak-burgers in Town & Country and Sancho’s Taqueria which has locations at 491 Lytton Ave. and in the Midtown Shopping Center.
An actual swim race wasn’t possible because of the pandemic.
Group leader David Gormley, a Paly sophomore and swim team member, said the restaurants were selected in part because they have given back to the community in the past. Gormley said Kirk’s and Sancho’s are known for supporting youth programs. He said the walls of the restaurants have photos of everything from little league teams to high school robotic teams.
“Businesses are making tough decisions about layoffs,” he said. “This is desperately needed financial aid for these businesses which goes to their employees.”
The students are reaching out to past participants of their swim races to get donations. So far they have raised $3,300.
“We have this big network of people who care so we decided to whip something together to activate the community for disaster relief,” said Gormley.
Restaurateur forced to cut half of staff
Adam Torres, the owner of Sancho’s Taqueria., said the kids reached out to him with questions about the current situation for small businesses. He said he told them that he has had to let employees go and is trying to split shifts between the remaining staff to they can all take home some pay. Torres used to have 30 employees but is now down to 15.
Torres said he plans to use the money HERO Swim gives him to buy Visa gift cards for all his Palo Alto employees, including those that have been laid off.