In less than two weeks, “Weho’s Nights In,” a local fundraising effort to support laid-off nightlife workers in West Hollywood, has raised over $22,000 in small donations, exceeding its original two-week target of $8,000. The fundraiser’s name encourages people to enjoy virtual events in an effort to continue to provide a safe space to gather while social distancing is in effect. Each event promotes HelpWeho.com, which asks for donations of a few dollars that would usually equal tips for a night out on the town.
The fundraising effort so far culminated with a two-hour streaming Facebook Live event this past Sunday. The telethon-style event helped raise over $5,500 for the bartenders, waiters, entertainers, and staff members who have been laid-off and are struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. DJ Ryan Kenney brought a club atmosphere to life while hosts Butter (Cody Morris) and Kyle Langan kept participants informed of the special guests and the rolling amounts raised. Celebrity guests included Lance Bass from N’Sync, Brian Jordan Alvarez from Will and Grace, Kelly Dodd from The Real Housewives of Orange County, and David Hernandez from American Idol, all of whom joined via Zoom or sent in video messages in support of the fundraiser. Lance Bass and Kevin Huvane of CAA offered matching donations in addition to their previous contributions to help encourage viewers to donate.
The event continued the momentum for HelpWeho.com’s founders Travis Garcia and Kevin Spencer, who the week before kicked off the effort with initial small donations from both founders’ mothers and friends. The two were brought together after independently reaching out to West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran to ask how they could help in the face of a stay at home order with no immediate end in sight. Garcia and Spencer’s goal was simple: organize locally and help out those in need as quickly as possible to help bridge the gap between the time a person would run out of savings and when government assistance would be available.
“Kevin and I knew those who were laid-off wouldn’t be able to afford food, sanitizer, or other basic essentials as their savings were running low. We had to act quickly to ensure people had what they needed to stay healthy,” explained Garcia in an announcement yesterday.
After a call with Duran, City of West Hollywood employees, and Jack Lorenz from the Alliance for Housing and Healing, the two began to act to raise money to help buy eGift cards (for social distancing purposes and due to purchase limits of essential supplies) for those who were laid off in the West Hollywood nightlife. “We wanted to help as many people as we could, but at the same time be as effective as possible by focusing on the West Hollywood gathering spaces that mean so much to us. We figured we could build a model that other communities and groups might use in support of their own local efforts,” said Spenser.
Applications for assistance opened on April 20, with the non-profit Alliance for Housing and Healing handling the application review and disbursement of funds. Given the success so far, the founders and a group of their supporters have pledged to keep going with future projects in order to give back to more members of the West Hollywood community and beyond. Anyone looking to make a donation or apply for assistance can do so on the WeHo’s Nights In website.