By Matthew Horwood
Thanks to the efforts of two high school students, over $6,000 has been raised to support nine Wellington West restaurants and frontline workers at the Ottawa Hospital.
“The Wellington West Restaurant Initiative” on Crowdfund Canada was started by Glebe Collegiate Institute student Adam Billowits, and Nepean High School student Rohan Kingwell, both of whom are in their final year of high school. 100 per cent of the Crowdfund donations will be used to buy gift cards from independently owned restaurants on Wellington Street, which will then be distributed to staff at the Ottawa Hospital.
Kingwell said he came up with the idea for the Crowdfund while sitting around the dinner table during the summer of 2020. He enlisted the help of his longtime friend Billowits, and the pair began fleshing out the idea in early September. The Wellington West Restaurant Initiative was launched on Crowdfund Canada in early December.
The pair said they were upset by the enormous number of small businesses that were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. And they recognized that seating limitations brought on by the colder weather would make it even harder for restaurants to attract customers.
“We both grew up in this neighborhood and have a connection to quite a few restaurants, especially the smaller ones like the Istanbouli Shawarma House. So that was why we made the decision,” Kingwell said.
A secondary goal of the Crowdfund was to bring attention to, and show appreciation for, all the frontline workers at the Ottawa Hospital.
“Doctors account for a good percent[age] of them, but there are so many people working tirelessly at the Ottawa Hospital who aren’t doctors. You have nurses, administrative people, janitors, whatever position they may be. So it’s great to help them out because they are all putting their lives at risk,” Billowits said.
In order to set up the initiative, Billowits tried getting help from his high school, Glebe Collegiate Institute.
“But there were some things we had to do, like organizing and advertising, that didn’t fall within the COVID[-19] sanctions of the school board.”
Instead, Billowits reached out to the Wellington West BIA for help with setting up the Crowdfund page and coordinating with the restaurants.
Kingwell said a large chunk of the fundraiser involved “going door-to-door and handing out a ton of flyers” in the Westboro and Wellington West neighbourhoods, which they accomplished with the help of 20 of their friends.
The pair worked with the Ottawa Hospital’s representatives to decide on which restaurants to support, and they came up with a total of nine. When the Crowdfund wraps up near the end of the month (January), Billowits will be tasked with collecting the gift cards and delivering them to the hospital.
Both students said the Crowdfund initiative has made clear the importance of volunteering in the local community, especially during a pandemic in which so many small businesses are struggling to survive.
“You’re killing two birds with one stone by helping the frontline workers, as well as the small businesses,” Kingwell said. “So that opened my eyes to helping out the community, and I realized that it’s [a] good thing to do more often. I definitely would be open to doing more stuff like this.”
“We both have obviously felt the effects of COVID-19 on our social lives and academically. But I think it is really valuable for us to be able to tackle a situation outside of just ourselves, and try to positively impact our community in our last year of high school,” Billowits said.
At the time of writing, 75 people had donated to the Wellington West Restaurant Initiative in 48 days. Dozens of messages of support were left on the Crowdfund page.