CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Adrienne Bankert, Emmy award-winning veteran journalist and “Morning in America” host, is invested in telling stories of real people from all walks of life — and all parts of the nation.
“Morning in America” will highlight the main streets in America in the series AB on Main, an intersection of conversation for how America can move forward. Adrienne set out to visit main streets across the country to listen to everyday people’s voices, concerns and perspectives.
Her next stop is Sacramento, California, where Frank Fat’s has been open for more than 80 years, starting in 1939 by Kevin Fat’s mother, who was a matriarch of Chinese American cuisine.
Because of employees who didn’t abandon ship during the coronavirus shutdown, Frank Fat’s was ready when doors reopened.
“They were loyal,” said Fat, the CEO of Fat Family Restaurant Group. “They stayed with us through the whole entire thing.”
The National Restaurant Association reports 2.5 million jobs were cut in the food and beverage industry in 2020. Despite COVD-19 restrictions being eased, there are still those who have yet to return to work.
“Nobody is even calling back,” said Diane Burke, who took over her family’s cafe, Simply Pleasures, in Lincoln, California, 40 years ago.
When another business owner called Burke, she used a day off to help.
“She called in tears and said she was short-staffed; I told her I’d jump in on the team with her, and we went and did a catering job for them,” Burke recalled. “We were part of the team for the day, and I know that in return, they would do the same thing for me. It’s what people need to be doing right now.”
Ready to serve, even though she’s understaffed. Burke currently has a group of seven that she’s rotating through their catering jobs, and usually, they’d have 46.
The hiring crisis is crunching retailers big time with more people shopping and fewer people working, meaning most stores have needed more help to keep shelves stocked.
“We just had a wave of business we were not ready for,” said John, a Walmart store manager.
At the height of the pandemic, John said they were so desperate for employees he called members of the community.
“He was in a pickle. Like 85 employees or so walked off because of COVID,” said Bill Krause, a business owner who took a second job at Walmart. “I felt obligated to help my community who has been so kind to me.”
“We had teachers, high school students, moms that showed up and helped,” John said. “People even worked their daytime jobs and worked overnight and stocked our shelves as well.”
Community members became essential workers by pinch-hitting for employees who were no longer there. But not because they needed the money; they already had full-time jobs.
“I worked 32 hours at Walmart and 40 hours with my telecom company,” said Steve Davis, who took a second job at Walmart.
“I worked 40 hours at Walmart overnight and then 40 hours during the day at my regular job,” said Steve Briggs, who also took a second job at the retailer.
“I was a full-time student and a full-time worker at the same time,” said Meghan Davis, a student who took a second job during the pandemic. She worked 60 hours a week.
They all stepped in to help because it needed to be done.
“You grew close to your coworkers because you spent eight hours a night with them,” Joel said.
“The customers were a little crazy at times,” Davis said. “Threatening that they’re going to cough on everything, or yelling about no toilet paper; things we cannot control.”
“I can remember walking through the back room one day and saying I’m quitting; this is crazy. Man, what am I doing here,” Krause recalled.
But they remembered their “why,” and the community thanked them for their efforts.
“My department got multiple cards from customers,” Davis recalled.
Most of them agreed putting others first is one way everyone can tap into this kindness and apply it to our country.
“Do for others, then you lose sight of your own pain,” Krause said.
“We can’t control what’s outside our doors, but we can control what is inside our doors and pass that hospitality around,” Fat said.
“I know that there is a lot of that generosity of spirit; we just need to tap into it,” Burke said.
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