A UNC senior started a GoFundMe last week to raise money for kitchen workers at Cosmic Cantina whose hours were cut due to low restaurant demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fundraiser has collected nearly $1,000, half of its goal, with most donors giving around $10 each.
The student who started the GoFundMe, Alessandro Uribe-Rheinbolt — who works as a cashier at Cosmic — said he wants the money to benefit kitchen workers because they tend to be older and have families to support.
“They're the hardest working people I've ever met, or ever worked alongside with,” Uribe-Rheinbolt said.
Elizabeth Cocha, a kitchen worker at Cosmic and one of the people benefiting from the fundraiser, said the restaurant has been forced to cut her hours because they have fewer customers.
Her husband works in construction but has also had less work, and what’s left of their salaries combined is still not enough to cover the family’s expenses.
“I have many bills to pay,” Cocha said. “My daughter is in college. I need to pay her rent, I need to pay my own rent, and apart from that, my mom has Alzheimer's so I need to pay to take care of her.”
By going to work, Cocha is putting herself at risk of catching the virus, but she feels like she has no choice.
“I'm very scared of getting sick with the virus, but what're we going to do? We need to at least earn a little money,” she said.
If things get worse, Cocha said she’ll have to ask her family in Mexico for help.
“But in Mexico they're even worse off,” she said. “Nobody has money, and I think the virus is bad over there as well.”
Yeshua Sanchez, a manager at Cosmic Cantina, said the restaurant has been badly hurt by the decrease in customers during the pandemic, even as it has tried to minimize impact by expanding delivery.
Sanchez said Cosmic’s customers are mostly UNC students, and the University makes up a large portion of its catering orders, which have now been canceled.
Uribe-Rheinbolt’s fundraiser will provide much-needed support to the kitchen employees, Sanchez said, but despite the decrease in business, he said Cosmic is trying to keep all of its workers.
“We will stand strong as long as we can,” he said.
Uribe-Rheinbolt said he is combining the money from GoFundMe with 100 percent of the revenue from the earrings he sells as a side-business on Instagram.
As a cashier at Cosmic, Uribe-Rheinbolt said it is important to help out his fellow employees because they are hard workers and the COVID-19 pandemic is making their lives difficult.
“I'm incredibly blown away by every shift and the passion and effort and skill that it requires to work in the kitchen, especially such a busy kitchen like Cosmic's,” he said.
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