In March, event manager Beverly Horne’s world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic meant her employer, Texas Mutual policyholder Vestals Catering, would have to stop providing services for its usual slate of parties, weddings and events. So what did Beverly do?
She went right on serving.
“I went from doing corporate events to handing out meals every day. And driving. I do a lot of driving now,” Beverly said. “I help in the kitchen, put the meals inside the boxes, and then I go outside and deliver them.”
Beverly is one of the thousands of Texas workers designated as “essential” during the coronavirus shutdown. It’s an extraordinary designation for a caterer, and it happened because Vestals Catering made an extraordinary change.
Vestals joined with Front Burner Restaurants to create an entirely new entity — Furlough Kitchen.
“They said, ‘Hey, what can we do? How can we make this work during the pandemic?’ That’s when the idea for Furlough Kitchen came into place,” she explained. “We wanted to be able to feed the people who have been furloughed.”
So they set up a nonprofit and approached potential sponsors with a similar commitment to serving the community. Texas Mutual was honored to help. The company donated $25,000 to Furlough Kitchen as part of a $2 million grant program launched in response to COVID-19.
With funding in place, the newly repurposed kitchen began serving furloughed families in Dallas. They also started delivering hot meals to area hospitals to provide something special for those employees.
“Feeding hospital employees and first responders, what can you say about that? That’s the front line. When people are sick, that’s where they go,” Beverly said. “And for us to be able to give them a hot meal, that speaks volumes about our kitchen and why we do what we do.”
It’s a different environment than the one she knew just a few months ago. Her company was accustomed to doing elaborate events. At the time of the shutdown, they were preparing to feed 5,000 people at an upcoming function, and had more than 50 weddings on their calendar. But when all events were cancelled, Beverly and her Vestals crewmates had to learn a new way of working.
They’ve always worked safe. The crew takes precautions to avoid slips and falls, cuts, burns and lifting injuries that are common risks in the food service industry. But now there are additional requirements. In the kitchen, they have rules about distancing. They’re wearing masks and gloves, and there are new clean-up kits throughout the building. The workers have been required to take classes, and they’re learning not only how to keep themselves safe, but how to protect the people they serve.
Adapting to the changes hasn’t been easy, but for Beverly, it’s definitely been worth it.
“Oh, I’m happy, and I know the whole group here is happy that we can still do the work that we love,” she said. “And we can see that we’re appreciated. We have people in car after car telling us ‘Thank you, we’re glad you’re here, the food is good, we appreciate this so much.’ You get smiles. You get gratitude. To me, that makes a difference. And that’s why I do what I do.”
At Texas Mutual, we’re proud to protect Beverly, and we’re grateful to every worker who spent the shutdown on the job. Thank you for being there when Texas needed you most. To learn more about our response to COVID-19, visit our Helping Texas page.
"Before we go out, I pre-trip the truck to make sure things are in operating order. When we’re on the route, we’re clean and neat, as always, and we make sure we’re safe from beginning to end."