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Newly unemployed, they keep each other’s spirits up

Group takes to Wilton Manors waters for kayaking amid coronavirus fallout

WILTON MANORS, Fla. – The service industry has been among the hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Workers are out of jobs and have no idea what the future holds, but there is one group that is finding a way to stick together, using South Florida’s natural resources as a positive outlet.

"I definitely could’ve never forseen something like this happening to us. Initially it was just a decline of sales and attendance. “

At first, it seemed manageable for managers like Deborah O'Brien who runs Valentino’s in Fort Lauderdale, but once the numbers started adding up, reality hit.

“It was harder for me to call around to my coworkers, to the people that look to me for support, and say don’t come to work today.”

It is the call many are getting during the coronavirus pandemic.

They have been out of work temporarily for hurricanes, but nothing like this.

“It is surreal to have something this huge and widespread and I wish we could see the end of it right now,” said hourly cook Rachel Rainbeau who was dishing up meals at Valentino’s. She was working towards becoming a chef, but now that has hit a bump in the road. “It hasn’t set in yet; it kind of feels like an unintentional vacation."

With little to do since businesses have closed, sticking together in a small gathering is the new norm.

This group has taken to the waters to enjoy the beauty of nature and to practice social distancing.

Kevin Roman is out of work. He is a lighting designer for concerts and big events.

"You can hang out with people and still maintain a safe distance. It’s important. We are able to commune in separate kayaks. We can stay in touch — keep each other healthy and each other fed," said Roman.

Spirits are high among the group that float the waters of Wilton Manors, but they all say they are looking forward to the day when they can get back to doing what means the most.

“I can’t wait to get back into a kitchen,” Rainbeau said.