Our little tourist town of Winthrop, WA is still standing, and we thank firefighters for their heroic efforts.
Winthrop is nestled in the heart of the North Cascades National Park, and with numerous pristine places to recreate, it has also had many of the same challenges as other communities in the last 18 months. First, COVID-19 left our hotels empty and locals unemployed, then an employee shortage as summer 2021 grew near.
The final hit was two nearby fires, with each fire impacting tens of thousands of acres and threatening homes and livelihoods. It coated our skies with smoke and closed the most beautiful scenic byway in the state. The North Cascades Scenic Highway brings many thousands of visitors, primarily during the summer months. With its closure, restaurants were among the most severely impacted businesses.
A Herculean Sacrifice for Heroes
After all of these setbacks, you’ll see what Winthrop is really made of. Like most small towns, we have strong backs and soft hearts. Not knowing if their businesses would survive these fires or the accompanying economic downturn, several local restaurants dug deep and offered a huge thanks to the firefighters who were saving the town. This effort was a community wide collaboration, with locals helping businesses cover the costs. Restaurants paid their employees to serve free food not only to firefighters but also those displaced by the fires. Most offered this on the past two Sundays, but many others offered these deals for a majority of the duration of the fires.
Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon headed up the effort and asked for donations on their Facebook page to invite community members to the event, and there were many who generously contributed.
Seth Miles, the owner of Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon stated how it all got started: “As most people will tell you when there’s a wildfire nearby, we all want to give something back to the firefighters who are working to defend our homes and neighborhoods, but there is often little we can do. When we at Jack’s started offering our Employee meal discount (50%) to all firefighters and displaced residents in mid-July, we immediately started receiving donations from local residents who wanted to help cover the meal costs. The generosity from community inspired and allowed us, along with Old Schoolhouse Brewery and East 20 Pizza, to offer free meals for the last two Sundays to everyone working on the fire crews. Over the last three weeks we’ve raised $5141.45 in direct donations, as well as over $1600 in gift card purchases, which we used to directly pay for meals.”
“All together we have provided 355 free meals and 1323 discounted meals.” Miles continued.
This is all possible because of …”the generosity and giving nature of our community, coming together to show our appreciation to the fire crews for all their hard work.”
You won’t find Old Schoolhouse Brewery tooting their own horn, but in a message to staff members a manager stated: “Thanks for keeping the energy high and being so upbeat in spite of the fires. We had a super successful Sunday last week of giving away food to firefighters and those who are displaced–we gave away almost $1700 in food, and the community donated most of the funds to cover that! We also just raised over $3000 for the Volunteer Firefighter Benevolent Fund from our Fire6 IPA. Very exciting!”
Several businesses offered discounts every day, not just on August 1st.
Estuardo Collier, manager at East 20 Pizza, stated that they gave away about four thousand dollars worth of food to firefighters. “The Vinmo idea from Seth at Jack’s was brilliant! A real sense of community and oneness. I’ve never felt we were competitors, but to show our solidarity to the the community was priceless. Only good comes of that.”
Collier went on to explain why he so admires the local heroes who saved our community. “I was a forest firefighter in 1999. I know what it’s like. The best way to describe is, hard *#@ ?”*%^ work!! I’m thankful I don’t have to do that job anymore. These guys were extremely thankful!”
The firefighters actually begged to pay and tipped the servers very generously. “I’ve been extremely blessed by East 20 Pizza, along with Lindsay and Luke Evens is to help support our Valley when we can. I’m thankful to all our employees because without them none of this happens!!” Collier concluded.
Rocking Horse Bakery gave over $1500 away in food according to owner Mark Westerfield.
We are so grateful to live is such a fantastic community and that is has not only survived these challenges, but it continues to thrive.
With Highway 20 open, and the smoke clear, we hope our visitors will return to continue enjoying the magic of our valley.