By Ted Scouten

WILTON MANORS (CBSMiami) – When COVID-19 made most businesses close up shop, Daniele Wallstedt lost his job waiting tables and as parking enforcement in Wilton Manors.

“I’ve never been in this spot, it sucks. It’s horrible,” he said. “I’ve never had to rely on anyone.”

He applied for unemployment, but as so many have experienced, nothing has happened yet.

“It still says under review and still pending.  It’s now almost in its second month with unemployment and still under review and pending,” Wallstedt said.

Wallstedt also applied for help from the We Are Wilton fund.  It was formed by three charitable groups, Wilton Manors Business Association, Wilton Manors Entertainment Group and the Wilton Manors Development Alliance, when they saw the need to help those people who’ve lost their jobs in Wilton Manors.

“Something like this comes from the heart,” said Toni Taha from We Are Wilton. “If we don’t stand together and help each other in our times of need, how can we call ourselves a community?”

So far, they’ve handed out checks for $175 twice now.  They’re hoping to help people pay one bill at a time.

“When you look at the average phone bill or cell phone bill where most people now are using zoom or going on line to social media a phone bill is easily $50, $75,” Taha said. “So helping with that one utility really goes a long way.”

Wallstedt said, “The money that they were able to help me with really helped out, with food, with a little bit for the bills to put on hold for the moment.”

Some employees at Gym Sportsbar are getting help too from We Are Wilton.

Rick Schmutzler, who owns the bar, has been trying for weeks to get federal loans and grants.

“Anything would help my employees,” he said. “Whatever funding I get is going to help me pay my employees.”

He applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, known as PPP, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan back in March. He’s still waiting to see any money and hoping for the best.

“I’m going to get reopened,” he vows. “I’m going to figure out how to make it work. I’m going to figure out how to make it to the first of the year.”

With so many jobs lost, people like Wallstedt are appreciative of any help they can get.

“I love the human condition,” he said.  “For as much stupidity as there is out there in the world, there’s an equal amount of kindness.

Within the next two weeks, We Are Wilton is hoping to hand out more checks. How many and how much? Well, that’s going to be determined by how many donations they get. If you’d like to help out, you can donate to We Are Wilton here.

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Ted Scouten

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