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Online Campaigns to Save New York's Theaters, Businesses


Steve Olsen, the owner of the West Bank Café, reads the specials over the phone to a customer in the empty restaurant. Photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Online Campaigns to Save New York's Theaters, Businesses
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New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood is filled with restaurants and other businesses that are now closed. Nearby, Broadway theaters are also dark because of COVID-19 suspensions.

The coronavirus crisis caused great economic difficulties for all these businesses. But some well-loved areas have received financial support to help them survive the difficulties. People are continuing fundraising campaigns online and on other media.

People walk past closed Broadway theaters. Photo taken on Jan. 10, 2021 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
People walk past closed Broadway theaters. Photo taken on Jan. 10, 2021 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Tom and Michael D’Angora are theater producers who live in Hell’s Kitchen. They opened a GoFundMe campaign last month to raise money for the West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theater. GoFundMe is an online fundraising service.

The GoFundMe project raised more than $340,000 in just weeks. The campaign included a telethon, a live online event, in which many theater actors and singers performed in support of West Bank Cafe.

Andre De Shields was among those who appeared on the telethon. The famous Broadway performer is the winner of three Tony Awards, the highest honor in American theater. He is also a big fan of the West Bank Cafe.

Saving New York City Businesses and Theaters through Online Campaigns
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“I’ve spent some of my most delicious, my most insouciant, my most important times right here,” De Shields said in his appearance. “We don’t want this lovely piece of heaven on earth to ever go away, he added.

Then he presented a large donation to Steve Olsen, owner of the West Bank Cafe and founder of its Laurie Beechman Theater.

“We were a couple weeks from really running out of money, and going out of business,” Olsen said before the campaign started.

But now, he says he is hopeful that the business he opened in 1978 can survive until the restaurant and live theater reopens.

The GoFundMe project continues to raise money for the West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theater. But, at the same time, the D’Angoras have started another such campaign for Birdland, a site for jazz music shows. That GoFundMe has already collected more than $180,000.

Gianni Valenti owns Birdland. He now believes it also will survive the coronavirus closures.

The boarded-up windows and For Rent signs are all over the place in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Photo taken on Jan. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
The boarded-up windows and For Rent signs are all over the place in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Photo taken on Jan. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

It’s “very heartwarming to see the response we’ve had,” Valenti said of the donors, adding, “I just love the fact that they care about Birdland, about the music and about what it means to New York that we all keep it going and hopefully down the road we’re back to normal.”

I'm Armen Kassabian.

Ted Shaffrey and Deepti Hajeka from Associated Press reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fundraising – n. a social event held to collect money for a political party, charity or school

insouciance – n. a relaxed and calm state : a feeling of not worrying about anything

heaven – n. something or some place that is very pleasant or good

response – n. something that is said or written as a reply to something

Have you heard of any stories in your country of people helping each other during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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