Pay It Forward started at the onset of the pandemic as a small initiative to deliver groceries to displaced restaurant industry workers. Less than two months later, the campaign has donated 5,000 bags of groceries to out-of-work industry employees. As the campaign continues to gain support in the Lowcountry, Pay It Forward is partnering with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach and Tricounty Family Ministries to further serve the Charleston area.

The initiative, started by Michael Shemtov of Butcher & Bee, The Daily and Workshop, was initially using shuttered restaurants as distribution points for grocery bags, but recent reopenings left them in need of new pick-up spots. With these new partnerships, Pay It Forward is adding distribution points in North Charleston, Johns Island and downtown.

With the volunteers, fridge space and safety protocols already in place, these groups are ready to start right away. Our Lady of Mercy will operate out of The Outreach (1864 Brownswood Rd. on Johns Island) and the Neighborhood House (79 America St. downtown), and Tricounty Family Ministries will distribute from 2105 Cosgrove Ave. in North Charleston.

In a press release, Our Lady of Mercy executive director Ericka Plater said, “We are committed, as always, to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us receive the critical support they need to not fall behind. Teaming up with these extraordinary groups helps local farmers, eliminates potential waste and makes a bigger impact on the community where we live, work and play.”

The work by Pay It Forward is also getting national attention. Earlier this week, Good Morning America featured the campaign as part of an online story.

Pay It Forward has raised enough money to keep the program going through mid-June when they expect industry employees to be back to work. F&B workers can apply for a provision bag online, and those wishing to contribute to Pay It Forward Charleston can visit

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