Editor's note: In the wake of Gov. Mike DeWine's March 15 order to close Ohio's bars and restaurants to diners because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, restaurants still were able to operate via carryout service and delivery. DeWine announced May 7 that outdoor service at restaurants and bars could resume May 15 and indoor service could be restored Thursday, May 21. Check ThisWeekNEWS.com for updates.

Editor's note: In the wake of Gov. Mike DeWine's March 15 order to close Ohio's bars and restaurants to diners because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, restaurants still were able to operate via carryout service and delivery. DeWine announced May 7 that outdoor service at restaurants and bars could resume May 15 and indoor service could be restored Thursday, May 21. Check ThisWeekNEWS.com for updates.

Unemployed restaurant workers have been finding ways to get help as their industry tries to get back on its feet during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, the main conduit for assistance, has received contributions from various individuals, restaurant groups and corporations. The fund is a collaboration between the Ohio Restaurant Association and its education foundation.

For example, the Wasserstrom Co., a restaurant-supply operation, is offering to match up to $15,000 for the fund, despite its own struggles.

Wasserstrom has had to lay off, furlough and cut hours for employees and has reduced salaries, even affecting the owners.

"We've been in the community since my great-grandfather (Nathan Wasserstrom) opened the business in 1902," Brad Wasserstrom, president of the company, said. "The community's been great to our business, and the city has been good to our family.

"This is one that hit us right where it's important, too."

Gov. Mike DeWine announced May 7 that outdoor service at restaurants and bars could resume May 15 and indoor service could be restored Thursday, May 21, as long as the businesses follow specific safety guidelines.

An estimated 300,000 restaurant workers have been laid off since March 15, when DeWine ordered bars and restaurants closed to dine-in customers but allowed for carryout and delivery services to continue.

Since then, several independent restaurateurs and groups have devoted time and money to help feed their employees and donate meals to frontline workers.

Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Ryan Vesler of Homage are lead organizers of the restaurant-support initiative called We Are All In This Together. Their companies teamed up with Pelotonia, Roosevelt Coffeehouse, Hot Chicken Takeover and others to raise more than $150,000 to reinvest in Columbus restaurants.

The Ohio Restaurant Association has received donations to its fund from several restaurant groups, including those owned by celebrity chef Michael Symon, the Jeff Ruby Foundation, which is affiliated with Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, and Flyers Pizza, as well as corporate contributors.

"The ORA has received more than 1,600 application inquiries for relief funds from restaurant workers all over the state who are suffering," the association's website said recently.

"Many people have not yet received unemployment checks, but they are facing bills, need to pay their rent and are waiting in lines at foodbanks. We are mailing relief checks each week."

People can apply for benefits at ohiorestaurantrelief.org.

Homa Moheimani, spokeswoman for the restaurant association, said specific numbers for the fund were unavailable because the group continues processing contributions and applications.

Steve Camp, 29, of northwest Columbus is one laid-off restaurant employee who said he looked forward to getting back to his job as a bartender at 101 Beer Kitchen, 397 Stoneridge Lane in Gahanna.

Camp said he had been getting by financially, receiving unemployment and $600 a month in federal aid, but the isolation has been stressful.

"It's been slow," he said. "It's been boring. You've got to find things to occupy your time."

The recent graduate of Ohio State University said his bills have piled up, he needs a new car and he wants to move, but he is unsure when the restaurant's sales will return to normal.

Wasserstrom said those looking for relief shouldn't be shy about asking for it.

"This has touched so many people," he said. "I think If there's a resource available, people should take advantage of it because there will be an end to this."

Ray Ray's Hog Pit has established a relationship with Nocterra Brewing Co. at 41 Depot St. in Powell.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, the same as at the three other Ray Ray's locations.

The menu will be much the same, although more pork will be sourced from Anderson Farms in Granville, operated by James Anderson, founder of the barbecue company.

Nocterra's flagship brew, Beta Flash, will be incorporated into one of the signature sauces at the Powell restaurant.

Curbside family-meal kits featuring steaks have been available at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, 89 E. Nationwide Blvd. in downtown Columbus.

The cook-at-home packages, each serving four and starting at $125, feature steaks for the grill, salad, macaroni and cheese, asparagus and a 1-pound loaf of sourdough bread.

Customers may choose between kits containing black Angus filets, USDA prime New York strip steaks, USDA prime boneless Delmonico ribeyes and an all- in-one package with two filets, a New York strip and a boneless rib-eye.

An assortment of red and white wines and select beers also are available.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary