Tullo brothers use GoFundMe campaign to aid Ridgefield restaurant workers
Jessica Wilmot walked into the Ancient Mariner on Saturday night and found an envelope resting on the bar.
“I thought it was a card,” said Wilmot, the Ridgefield restaurant’s owner. “But then I opened it and saw that it was a bunch of cash and a type-written note with instructions.”
The unexpected drop-off was from Miles and Ryan Tullo, Ridgefield natives and brothers who set up a GoFundMe page in mid-March to benefit restaurant workers in town. The drive raised more than $13,000, which the Tullos began distributing to restaurants last weekend. The second (and final) set of disbursements takes place this weekend.
Neither brother has actually worked inside a restaurant — their cumulative industry experience consists of Ryan’s previous job as a part-time delivery driver.
“We both wanted to do something good for Ridgefield,” said Miles, a freshman at the University of Michigan. “Ryan (a junior at Ridgefield High) and I chose to focus on restaurants because the coronavirus has really impacted them.
“At first we were going to raise money and give it directly to the owners, but we thought it would be better to have it go toward the workers and servers ... they are really hurting.”
The fund-raiser began March 16 and reached its initial goal of $6,000 in a few days. The Tullo brothers updated their target to $12,000, and then closed the fund on April 7 with a total of $13,310.
Those donating had the option to name which restaurant(s) they wanted to benefit. One donor asked that her $1,000 be divided in amounts of either $100 or $50 and given to staff at 12 specific restaurants.
“Most of the donations were just for Ridgefield restaurants in general,” Miles said. “We split that money and tried to pick places that had table service. I think there ended up being 33 restaurants in total.
“It would have been good to give a lot of money to a few restaurants, but everybody is feeling the effects of the coronavirus.”
In the note they included with the cash, Miles and Ryan asked owners or general managers to do what they deemed best for their workers. Wilmot obliged.
“I split the cash up and put it in envelopes for our staff,” she said. “Each of them got $35.”
“It was a nice philanthropic gesture,” Wilmot added. “It’s reassuring to know there are people thinking about restaurant workers and wanting to help.”