Cometh the hour cometh the county.

As Loudoun’s COVID-19 lockdown continues, devastating our tourism and hospitality industry, local businesses and residents have stepped up in inspiring and innovative ways to help soften the blow.

Chef Tony Ford's Fishshack“They say a crisis brings out the best in people and we’re seeing that,” says Tony Stafford, owner of Loudoun’s iconic Ford’s Fish Shack restaurants which had to furlough 140 employees when Virginia restaurants moved to takeout only. Yet Stafford has managed to feed all his staff for free and extend their health insurance for 60 days, thanks in large part to the Ford’s Family Fund he set up. The fund has raised $25,000 so far through donations, gift card sales and tips loyal customers have given. “It’s incredible. We’re so grateful to our customers and the Loudoun community,” says Stafford. “Stay healthy, stay safe and keep supporting small business in Loudoun.”

Over in Leesburg, Curtis Allred is also feeding furloughed staff for free at his restaurants Delirium Cafe U.S.A. and Wild Wood Pizzeriaa story picked up in Newsweek magazine.  “They helped us get open, they represent me and my family and our investors to every guest,” Allred told Newsweek of his employees. “The least I can do is feed them for a few days while we see what may come...”

Catoctin Creek Distilling exterior nightIn Purcellville meanwhile, Loudoun’s world-renowned distillery Catoctin Creek switched from making award-winning rye to giving out free sanitizing alcohol to those in need, particularly first responders, hospitals and care facilities. With box stores running out of disinfectant, the distillery has turned to bottling hand sanitizer which can now be purchased curbside, along with their whiskey and gin. 

In a similar vein, Vino Bistro in the Village at Leesburg complex has launched a “Feed Our Heroes Box”, requesting $10 donations which will be used to cook and assemble lunch box meals for doctors and nurses at nearby Inova Loudoun Hospital ER. “Let's give back to those risking their health and well-being to make sure we are healthy and well,” reads the campaign statement. “We want to keep our doctors and nurses on top of their game by providing a meal to nourish their bodies and warm their hearts.”

At the same time, AhSo Restaurant in Ashburn is donating 5 percent of all gift card sales to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to help in the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19, while another Ashburn restaurant, Red’s BBQ & Pizzeria, sent their portable BBQ pit food truck out one afternoon last week to serve free ribs, pulled pork and smoked chicken to those in need.

All of which inspires Visit Loudoun CEO Beth Erickson.

Loudoun Tourism & Hospitality Relief Fund Logo“The fallout from COVID-19 has been heartbreaking but every day we’re seeing the love, pride, creativity, generosity and hope of our community.”

This week Erickson announced the launch of the Visit Loudoun Foundation Tourism & Hospitality Relief Fund to help the 18,000+ people in the tourism hospitality industry in Loudoun who are struggling as a result of the crisis. The Visit Loudoun Foundation seeded the fund with $10,000 and the Loudoun Chamber Foundation has launched a $5,000 pledge match campaign.

Said Erickson: “While we talk about the nearly 18,000 workers in Loudoun’s hospitality industry in general, it’s really about the housekeeper who makes the bed and the front-desk clerk who gives you a key. It’s about the server who tells you the daily specials and the farmer who grew the food. It’s about the musicians who play your favorite song and the driver who gets you home safely. It’s about the people who brew the beer, tend the vines or distill world-class spirits and the staff who serve them. It’s about all of those who greet you with warmth and hospitality throughout Loudoun who are affected.”

To donate go to www.visitloudoun.org/relief-fund/