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Neighbors continue to help neighbors amid pandemic

By Lisa Tindell

Neighbors helping neighbors has never been more evident than the current movement in Brewton.

Sarju Patel and her husband, Wade Winstead, are doing their part as good neighbors in spear-heading an effort to help local residents and local businesses through donations of food, money and efforts. By giving discounts to local restaurants to residents, the pair began a small effort that has grown over the past few weeks.

“We started this around the time of what was supposed to be spring break here,” Patel said. “My husband had the week off and we had some time to do something we thought would be just three or four days. That has turned into weeks now and it’s still going.”

Patel tagged the effort as “Brewton Strong” and even started a Facebook page to get the word out on what the couple were doing throughout the city.

“We heard about some businesses being shut down because of the virus,” Patel said. “We were lucky that our business was deemed essential so we were still doing business as usual. Some of our employees had family members that weren’t working because of closures and we wanted to do something to give back since we were fortunate enough to be open.”

What began with a gift certificate to David’s Catfish House for about 10 families has turned into dozens of discounts handed out to restaurants around the city.

“We started off with $20 gift certificates, but we decided to change that so that we could offer some help to more families,” Patel said. “We then started handing out discounts to other restaurants and some of those came on board by matching what we were doing.”

Winstead said the effort was an idea that sprang up and has been a way the couple can give back to the community.

“We are blessed,” Winstead said. “This is just a way we can give back to the community. It’s a way that we can help to keep people buying and help keep money moving around in the business community. We are amazed at how this has grown.”

The growth of the effort is due in large part to the donations of private citizens, the City of Brewton and generous business owners, Patel said.

“Early on the City of Brewton said they would match our donations up to a certain amount every day,” Patel said. “Not just once, but every day the city has stepped up to help in this effort to give our businesses a chance to keep going. That helps families in the community that may be experiencing some financial hardships. With some of our participating restaurants matching our purchases, we are seeing as many as 70 or more families have an opportunity for a meal or a discount on a meal every day.”

In addition to matching donations and continued support from the community, Patel said “Brewton Strong” T-shirts are also helping to keep the idea alive.

“We decided to make a shirt with the logo on it to have for people,” Patel said. “The ‘Brewton Strong’ logo is actually made up of the names of the people who were our initial contributors. We are still selling the shirts and they have been pretty popular.”

In addition to simply offering up discounts, Patel said there are other ways that have been created for the public to be able to participate.

“We did a scavenger hunt recently to give people something to do and get it on the fun of this,” Patel said. “We plan on doing that again and even have Sam LaDuca helping us out on coming up with the list for the hunt.”

The hunt will be posted on the group Facebook page found as “Brewton Strong,” Patel said.

“We will keep making announcements on the page to let people know where the discounts will be available on which days,” Patel said. “We have donations now that will cover us at least until the end of the month. And, in addition to the restaurants, we will begin including some of our locally owned retail businesses in the next week or so.”

If you are interested in purchasing a “Brewton Strong” T-shirt, Patel said they will be available for pickup on Friday at a cost of $15 for youth through adult extra-large and $17 for 2X or larger.

“Shirt purchases and donations can be made at our business,” Patel said. “We are open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight. Donations can also be made at the store during business hours.”

Patel said for those who don’t want to venture out for a shirt or to make a donation can still do so. Simply message Patel on the “Brewton Strong” Facebook page or look for a way to donate by PayPal at Sarjurpatel@aol.com; Venmo at Sarju1 or Cash App at $Sarju925.