Indianapolis nonprofit is brewing with creative ideas to bring relief to the service industry community

Photo by Adam Wilson

An Indianapolis based nonprofit is brewing with ideas to bring relief to individuals in the service industry community.

Service industry workers across Indianapolis were told in early March they would not be returning to their jobs at the bars, restaurants and breweries we love for the foreseeable future due to the impact of COVID-19. For Sean Webster this meant putting his job with Monon Beverage on hold. Not one to dwell on the uncertainty of his future in the restaurant industry, a career which has spanned over 17 years for the Indianapolis resident, Webster consulted close friends and got busy with a new kind of work.

Indy Independent Relief Fund was registered as a non profit in response to individuals in the service industry displaced by COVID-19. The goal of the non profit is to “continually generate funds, through the production and sale of charity beers and events, which will then be donated to any service industry worker in need due to health, financial, or personal reasons.” With a mission statement to “serve those who serve us.”

Webster described this mission as “taking care of the community, with a focus on the individuals.”

Just like the service industry comes together to pull off a busy dinner rush, individuals and businesses have come together to show support for IIRF and the community.

“The community support has been cool,” Webster said. “I know my community, I know this project was something they could get behind. It has been great to work with everyone.”

According to Webster, after a brief phone call with John Robinson of Centerpoint Brewing, he began to entertain the idea of a relief beer. With the help of the Centerpoint team, the idea for the first relief beer came to life, and by the end of that day Webster and his friends across the service industry had secured enough donations for a 300 case release of a beer to provide aid for the community of service industry workers.

Photo from @indyirf Instagram

The limited series beer releases have included Social Distance Pale Ale, Essential Pilsner, Empty Stage and $timulus. Webster has also worked with Indiana Small Batch Distilleries to create a monthly spirit to support the funds such as Old 55 Bourbon and Live Proud Vodka.

So far, the relief beer series has included the most recent Shutdown Schwarzbier with Black Acre Brewing; $timulus IPA in collaboration with Brewlink Brewing; Empty Stage, a Hoppy Blonde available through Black Circle Brewing; Essential Pilsner with Grand Junction Brewing Co; and the first release of the series Social Distance Pale Ale from Centerpoint Brewing.

Due to a following on social media, and the community’s continued interest in supporting the cause, these beers are selling out at a highly impressive rate. These releases have been very limited, and the best way to make sure you get your hands on the relief beers is to follow Indy Independent Relief Fund on social media, and stop into one of the breweries they are working with. Webster confirmed they are still working on upcoming releases, and hope to continuously have two core beers from the series available, in addition to bringing back popular past releases based on audience interest.

Webster has used the proceeds to collaborate with Tinis on a fresh market concept, available every Thursday for any worker in the service industry. This includes individuals working in entertainment, bars, restaurants, salons and more, who will be able to stop in for fresh grocery packs. Webster and his team are happy to make packs of groceries to accommodate any dietary restrictions or needs individuals and their families may have.

An additional way to support the fund is to purchase an IIRF shirt, available through the website. Webster broke the purchase down to explain that one shirt could essentially mean one pack of groceries for one service industry worker and their family. The market has been able to serve 133 individuals since the first one on May 7th.

As restaurants reopen and our service industry begins to return to work, Webster’s goal is to continue the fund long past the effects of COVID-19. The relief fund will continue as long as there is need in the service industry. The non profit will be putting together a board of directors, with representation from all corners of the Indy service industry.

“(The vision for IIFR) gets so much better when there are other people who have had other backgrounds,” Webster said. The board of directors will be able to help identify instances of need within the industry and work together to create a plan to address these needs.

“Ideally there is not a mass pandemic that exhausts the funds, we want to be able to help people when it’s needed,” Webster said of the fund.

Webster is excited by the collaborative growth of IIRF and its future, and is excited the fund will be an option for people who need it. In the future, the goal is to be a resource for individuals in the industry should anything happen that impacts them.

As the fund grows, Webster was clear he is very open to collaborating, meeting people in the community, and overall making IIRF a community effort with an “open ended invite to everyone.” Anyone interested in working with or receiving assistance from the fund can reach out to Webster through the fund’s social media. Requests for assistance or groceries from the market will be kept anonymous.

The community can follow the journey on IIRF’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You are also able to make donations through IIRF on Venmo.

Sean Webster would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to the fund:

Breweries making beer in the industry relief series: Centerpoint, Social Distance Grand Junction, Essential Black Circle, Empty Stage Brew Link, $timulu$; Black Acre, Shutdown; TwoDeep, Phase Four (7/3) Hoosier, Back On Track (TBD). More coming soon!!

Distilleries labeling spirits: Old 55, Live Proud, and more coming soon in partnership with Indiana Small Batch!

People involved to make beers happen through donations: Crazy Horse Hops LLC, Sugar Creek Malt Co; Kaiser Press; ICan Solutions; Indy Hop Bines; Daredevil Brewing Co; Fountain Square Brewing Co; The Royal Group (Indiana Box); Sunking Brewing Co; Ideal Canning; Monon Beverage; Brokers Sharp Electronics

Event/important support providers through their own efforts: Sara Arnold- Indiana Brewery Running Series; Tyler Crago- Tyler Dane Entertainment; Sara Potts- Local Love League; John Gallo- Voyles, Vaiana, Lukemeyer, Baldwin, & Webb, Levin and Deihl, LLP