Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund surpasses million-dollar mark, begins distribution

“I cried instantly for I am so grateful there are such gracious souls out there that are willing to help us. People like me still have hope!”

NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) Tuesday announced an undisclosed major contribution from New Orleans native Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, to its Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund, started in partnership with the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation (LHF) and Entergy to provide crisis grants to hospitality workers who cannot afford basic needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Manning endorsed the fund through a video on social media and encouraged the public to join him in supporting industry professionals in the region.

The Hospitality Cares Fund surpassed the million-dollar mark over the weekend thanks to a $25,000 matching challenge issued by New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis and his wife, Tamela, and a generous $50,000 gift from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.

We are beyond grateful for their contributions and take comfort in knowing that for every Manning and Davis, there are also dozens of everyday heroes stepping up to contribute and provide hope where it’s needed most,” said Jennifer Kelley, LHF executive director. “I’m continually astounded by the response we’ve heard from individual donors who are giving anything they can to make a difference, as well as small business and restaurant owners who are leveraging their talents and resources to raise additional support.”

New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno joined UWSELA, LHF and Entergy in their efforts to increase awareness for the growing need to support hospitality workers by encouraging famous New Orleanians to bring attention to the fund.

I’m proud to partner with United Way to raise dollars to provide as many grants as possible and am incredibly thankful for all the donations that have come in. This truly shows how much the people of New Orleans care for each other and that we’re all in this together,” said Moreno. “These emergency grants are essential to many people who are struggling. In these challenging times, we must do all we can to help one another.”

With more than a million dollars in funding, UWSELA expects to send one-time $500 crisis grants to over 2,000 individuals in the industry to help with basic household needs, like food, housing, health care, transportation, and child care.

It is promising to know we will be able to get immediate financial assistance to thousands of vulnerable households across the region, but we know we still have a long way to go, tens of millions at least, if we are to get a grant to every hospitality worker in need,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “We’re coping with the knowledge that tens of thousands of people are struggling to survive, and we will not rest until we tap every resource possible.”

UWSELA opened and temporarily closed the fund’s application process within six hours on Saturday, March 21, after receiving responses from over 2,000 applicants, which includes individuals from across UWSELA’s seven-parish service area.

I am a single mother who is in night school and now have lost her job because of the COVID-19 virus. I have my bills still coming and a young son to feed,” said a Hospitality Cares Fund grant recipient who wishes to remain anonymous. “I have been sitting here for two weeks wondering what I am going to do. As soon as I received this [notification] email, I cried instantly for I am so grateful there are such gracious souls out there that are willing to help us. People like me still have hope!”

The initial round of approvals is ongoing as follow-up outreach is necessary in some cases to verify applicant information. Grant distributions will continue throughout early April via check and direct deposit. UWSELA and LHF will reevaluate reopening the application process in the coming days based on the number of approved recipients and available funds.

The public can contribute to the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund and learn more at


About United Way of Southeast Louisiana

For more than 90 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.




About Louisiana Hospitality Foundation

Founded in 2006, the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Louisiana’s hospitality industry through support of individuals within the community. We do this by supporting workforce development programs directly related to our industry; providing access to culinary and hospitality education; working to ensure a positive perception of Louisiana’s hospitality industry; and providing financial assistance and/or guidance to people in the hospitality industry during times of crisis.

Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed over $1.8 million in support of its mission. These funds are raised through community support and signature fundraising events including Horses, Hops and Cops, the Fidelity Bank Champions Club at Zurich Classic, the Gold Medal Chefs Gala & Hospitality Awards, and Santa’s Kitchen.

Follow on Facebook at, on Instagram at @lahospfound, and on Twitter at @lahospfound and for additional information visit