Sizable goal in sight for S.O.S. Fund

Final push underway for GoFundMe campaign that has already "exceeded everyone's expectations."
Bunky's hummus on the shelf at Willy Street Co-op
Photo by Andie Behling
Bunky's Hummus is one of the products that supports the S.O.S. Fund. You'll find this and the other products at all locations of Metcalfe's Market and Willy Street Co-op.

When Kessenich’s Ltd. launched the S.O.S Fund, a GoFundMe page to benefit furloughed Madison restaurant workers, the organizers had no idea it would be as successful as it’s been. With about two and a half weeks left of the fundraiser (launched in partnership with News 3 Now,, Madison Magazine and TVW on April 2), the fund has raised $53,817 of the $75,000 initial goal.

“It’s really exceeded everyone’s expectations,” says Kelly Hopkins, an account executive and Madison marketing liaison for Kessenich’s, which is a local restaurant supply store.

Signage for the S.O.S. fund on a shelf at Willy Street Co-op

Photo by Andie Behling

In an effort to make the final push to the fundraising goal, there’s a new way to support the S.O.S. Fund — a portion of proceeds from a handful of local products sold at all Metcalfe’s Market and Willy Street Co-op locations will go to the fund. S.O.S. signage at the grocery stores and S.O.S. stickers on packaging identify the participating products, which are Pasqual’s Cantina’s tortilla chips, JBC Coffee Roasters’ special “Local Love” coffee blend (created especially for the S.O.S. Fund), Slide Gourmet Potato Chips, Bunky’s hummus, Banzo’s falafel, Super Charge! Foods’ micro greens and Potter’s Crackers’ Wisconsin Rye and Winter Wheat flavors.

These S.O.S.-supporting products have been available since the beginning of May, and Hopkins says the initial response has been encouraging. “I’m in close contact with Teresa at Bunky’s, and she said last week that she delivered her regular quantity of hummus to the Willy Street Co-ops, and by Thursday they called her and said, ‘We’re out!’ She’s like, ‘That never happens where, two days later, our regular order amount is depleted.'”

Two grocery store packages

Photo by Kelly Hopkins

S.O.S. proceeds from the designated products bought at Metcalfe’s and the Co-ops will go through the end of May, which is when Kessenich’s hopes to reach its goal and end the GoFundMe.

The community’s overwhelming response came in the form of individual donations as well as offshoot initiatives that helped raise money for the cause. One such offshoot was a knife and skillet raffle organized by local makers Isaiah Schroeder Knifeworks, American Skillet Co., Chef Knives To Go and Nate Zimmerman. “It’s been really cool to see the fund inspiring other people for other sectors of business,” Hopkins says. “It speaks volumes about the generosity of the community.”

The S.O.S. Fund dispersed $28,000 of the money raised at the end of April. The Northside Planning Council, acting as the fund’s fiscal agent, loaned the money so Kessenich’s could keep the GoFundMe going. “We knew people needed it now,” Hopkins says. “We didn’t want to wait until the very end of May.” Funds are divided between restaurants that register eligible employees through the GoFundMe page. Kessenich’s will disperse the remaining amount at the end of May.

Hopkins says the fund’s success up to this point is not the norm. “The Northside Planning Council is involved in a ton of GoFundMe campaigns throughout the year, and she said she’s never seen on this successful,” Hopkins recalls about talking with her council contact.

The feedback from the fund has been overwhelming, Hopkins says. “Oh my goodness, the emails and the letters we have gotten from workers who received a disbursement check … the gratitude. These people weren’t expecting it.”

The S.O.S. Fund, which stands for “save our staff,” will end in May, but that won’t be the end of S.O.S., Hopkins says. “We’re going to morph it into other ways we can give back to the community,” she says.

In the future, Kessenich’s might change the meaning of S.O.S. to “service our society,” or something along those lines, Hopkins says. The fundraising efforts will continue, and Hopkins is hopeful they might incorporate events in the future. “The fund grew its own legs,” she says. “It has a life of its own.”