|12/28/2020 11:49:00 AM|
Local servers work together for a greater good at Christmas time
Christmas is the season for giving and generosity.
But, in a COVID-19 world, some of those qualities seem to be lacking. But not for April Birdsall and Brenda Bialczak.
Birdsall is a bartender at Ole’s Crossroads Bar and Grill in Shafer and Bialczak tends bar at the Pizza Pub in Center City.
Like most of the bar and restaurant industry, they’ve felt the burn of restrictions and shut downs, but that didn’t stop them from coming up with a caring idea that helped deliver Christmas gifts to over 20 area families.
Birdsall was thinking of ways she could help fellow servers who might be struggling and came up with the idea to start an Adopt-a-Family approach for servers in the area who were having trouble with the shutdown and lack of income.
“I know a lot of servers, and many of them are single moms and serving or bartending is their only income,” she said. “I didn’t want any of their kids to be disappointed. They deserve a great Christmas too.”
Bialczak added, “What are these families supposed to do? We don’t know how long this thing is going to go on for so I decided I would like to help.”
The pair know each other as the service industry is like a small family in the area, despite working at separate bars. So, they started a Facebook group that allowed them to get the word out to fellow service industry workers in the area, and used their contacts to make sure they could reach as many people as possible.
At first, Birdsall figured she’d only get one or two families looking to be adopted, but that number grew to over 20 by the time she had answered everybody who had contacted her.
“The response was great and every family that was adopted was local,” Birdsall said.
The program really struck a chord with Bialczak, hence why she wanted to get involved and help throughout. “I’ve been there before,” she said. “ I’ve been a single mom before and needed help. There’s a lot of people out there but they don’t know where to go for help. This was nice that people were able to come to us for help.”
The program essentially allowed a struggling family to list the ages and genders of their children and some of their likes, and then community members, bar owners or others who were able to do so, got those lists and got to do some shopping for the children. The gifts were then distributed to the families, who were allowed to stay anonymous throughout the process.
The amazing part of it is that Birdsall, who lives in Center City, and Bialczak, who resides in Lindstrom, both dedicated a lot of time and effort into the program and they both have children of their own. Birdsall has a blended family with her husband Shawn. Together they have seven children. And Bialczak and her boyfriend have two middle schoolers at home.
Birdsall, who grew up in Forest Lake, was at times overwhelmed with the support that she received. She said it was tough at times to make sure everything was going smoothly, as she didn’t expect to have so many families come forward, but it was worth it in the end, she said, as over 20 families will have a little brighter Christmas.
“It really does take a village. We’re living in kind of a gross time right now and the community really pulled together. It was a positive experience that made a lot of people feel good.”
She did say that she wanted to do something similar next year, but that she’ll be more prepared for it and the response that comes with it. “This is just such an awesome community and it was a great experience,” she said.
“We all really take care of each other in the service industry. We work together and are a family in and out of the restaurant. It’s how it works, We lean on each other and right now we are all dealing with the same thing. I think it’s great we were able to get enough that every family to come forward to get help was taken care of,” Bialczak said. “It just shows how great our community is as a whole. People are trying to step up all over where they can.”