Regional One CEO creates challenge to help hospitality, service workers hurt by pandemic

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 10:52 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In just days, Shelby County restaurants will be limited to 25% capacity, a number that adds up to trouble for tens of thousands in the hospitality and service industries.

That’s why Regional One Health President and CEO Dr. Reginald Coopwood, MD and his wife, Erica Stiff-Coopwood, Esquire are joining forces to provide immediate relief.

The inspiration began Saturday.

“I was reading a book called Double Blessing,” explained Coopwood.

He says the book triggered his heart and soul.

“We were faced with, you know, the health department document leaked and everyone was responding negatively.”

With the looming new directive to limit the service and hospitality industries, he turned to his wife.

“I said, ‘Erica I’ve just been hit by a burden.’”

She listened to his concerns and ideas.

“Our workers should not have to pay the price with their livelihood, because we want to be social,” said Stiff-Coopwood.

The immediate past president of Memphis’ Junior League went into action. She thought of her friend Kimberly Perry, whose husband, retired NBA great Elliot Perry, is on The Community Foundation board over The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

“People love to have direct impact. If you give them an opportunity to have direct impact, they will help you do it,” said Stiff-Coopwood.

The goal: to set up a fund for an immediate payout for service and hospitality workers who apply to get relief through Jan. 30.

The foundation says Welcome to Memphis COVID-19 Relief Fund will provide individual relief funds of $300 each to hospitality service employees. Eligible recipients are hourly workers of hotels, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, convention services, or tour operators. For more information or to apply, visit or call (901) 543-5327.

MIFA’s Emergency Services program provides rent, mortgage, and utility assistance for Memphis and Shelby County residents who have experienced a temporary crisis due to COVID-19, such as a job loss or reduction in pay. For more information or to apply, please visit

The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund advisory committee anticipates making grant awards to Welcome to Memphis, MIFA and other agencies who will directly allocate funds to individuals.

The Coopwoods’ children helped come up with the name of the campaign ‘Pay It Forward Mid-South.’

“I was amazed that he was able to raise $100,000 in like 20 minutes,” she said.

Regional One Health, Baptist Memorial Health Care and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare made leadoff gifts totaling $100,000. FedEx, First Horizon, Truist and other businesses joined in Saturday and the fund is now at more than $200,000.

With 65,700 jobs at stake, the foundation hopes to raise $3,000,000. So, the Coopwoods launched a social media challenge Wednesday to businesses and the community.

“Every corporation has not been negatively affected by the pandemic and we challenge their leaders to step up and donate to,” said Coopwood.

“Our stance is that if you are sheltered. If you are warm. If you have someplace that you can call home. Then, any donation to this fund to help our friends and workers in the hospitality and service industry would just be a godsend for them,” said Stiff-Coopwood.

To donate or to apply for the assistance, click here.

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