CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you eat a meal at Water Street Oyster Bar, you'll notice server Isaac Flores.
He always is working hard at the restaurant, and has been doing so for the last two decades, but he has a new-found energy. That is because in March, for the first time in his career with the business, he was sent home.
"I was thinking 'What are we going to do next?' " Flores said.
When restaurants closed their dining rooms, Flores was just one of many workers in the restaurant industry who was furloughed.
"It's heartbreaking when you don't have the hours or the work for these people who have made a career out of it," said Water Street Restaurants president Richard Lomax.
During the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, 38 percent of employees who work in the tourism and travel industries nationwide were furloughed.
Visit Corpus Christi took action to help those employees by creating Visit Corpus Christi Cares.
Through generous donations from people in the community, Visit Corpus Christi Cares provides grants to furloughed employees in tourism and travel-related jobs.
Employees can apply for a grant through the Visit Corpus Christi website. They will have to provide various documents and answer certain questions, and their supervisor also is required to send in a letter of recommendation.
For the question portion of the application, Flores answered from the heart.
"I told them that everything is different from day to day," he said. "We don't know what tomorrow is going to bring."
He quickly was accepted by the board.
"He is so committed to the success of that organization," said Visit Corpus Christi's Meredith Darden.
Tourism is an essential part of the Corpus Christi economy. According to the Gov. Greg Abbott's latest economic report, tourism is the second-largest industry in the Coastal Bend, creating 26,000 jobs annually and attracting over 10 million visitors a year.
Visit CC Cares still is taking applications for furloughed employees to receive grants. Darden hopes the organization can continue to be funded. Her wish just received a significant boost from the Corpus Christi Hooks, who will be hosting a jersey auction that runs until May 24.
All the proceeds of the sale go to the Visit Corpus Christi Cares.