NEW JERSEY — With restaurants and bars and closed for dining in, service industry workers who rely on tips have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic.

Realizing this, people who would typically support them in person have started an online effort that connects would-be customers with the service industry people in their area and allows them to tip the workers even though they are not dining out.

“If people are at home and they’re eating and they’re having a drink, they can send money directly to people who would be doing the work,” said Westfield resident Mike Canavan, who brought the national program to New Jersey. “It’s a pure charity.”

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Canavan, 51, said his brother, who lives in Savanna, Georgia, tipped him off to the program that has gone national, and he is volunteering his time to facilitate the program in New Jersey.

“People noticed that the first wave of people who were impacted were service industry people, and they were like ‘how can we help these people?’” Canavan said.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, residents Donald Sayers, Dan Ryan, Jen Gregory and Galen Riley, as well as Kelly Kuhn in Monterey, California, founded ServiceIndustry.Tips and continue to manage the site, a news release from the company says.

The website allows customers to log in and choose the area they would typically be tipping in, then “tip” random service people on Venmo. In addition to serving workers in the food industry, the website allows for donations to hair stylists and other service industry workers.

As the North Jersey representative for ServiceIndustry.Tips, Canavan vets service industry people who join the program.

In Westfield, Canavan’s hometown, service workers who are part of the program include those that would typically be working at AddamsTavern, The Chocolate Bar, Akai Lounge and Westfield Station Café, he said.

“I believe in giving my time back to the community,” Canavan said. “And this is my community here in Westfield.”

Email Matt Kadosh at | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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