In the wake of the tragic destruction Typhoon Haiyan left in the Philippines, Nicole Ponseca, one of the owners of Jeepney (201 First Avenue, 212-533-4121), says she had an immediate influx of calls from New Yorkers asking how they could help. “We’re one of the only Filipino restaurants in the city, so peope were looking at us and asking what they could do to help,” she says. “So many people — Filipino and non-Filipino — had been calling. It was an amazing, overwhelming number of calls.” And though the restaurant had already begun planning a larger benefit in December, the team decided to harness the sense of immediacy people felt and hold a can and fundraising drive tonight.
“I was like, fuck, we gotta get something together now; I don’t want to lose the momentum of people wanting to help,” Ponseca explains. “Jose Antonio Vargas is a good friend of mine; he’s an award-winning journalist [you might remember him from the Time story in which he revealed himself as an undocumented immigrant], and he’s from the Philippines. So we said, ‘What the hell. Let’s do something.'”
So Jeepney is inviting action-minded diners to come down to the restaurant tonight, where they can donate canned goods (Ponseca plans to haul them in a UHaul to the Red Cross), write a check to the Red Cross — which Ponseca will send as part of one big package — and, at the very least, have a beer, all of the proceeds from which will go to the cause. “We got a generous donation from Tiger Beer, so every single beer sold will go toward relief,” says Ponseca. “We have 10 cases, so that’s $2,000 in beer that will be donated.” Jeepney’s been receiving additional beer donations from others, too, so it’s likely that there will be more beer-related aid to go around after the Tiger runs dry.
Vargas will meet-and-greet and, likely, offer rallying words, but Ponseca says he’ll be there to work. “I’m expecting Jose to roll up his sleeves and help me put the cans away,” she laughs.
Jeepney will run a live-tally of the funds it collects throughout the night — “That transparency is so important,” Ponseca says — and the restaurant hopes this will encourage people to come down, since it’s easier and more effective (and more rewarding) to see how much good the group is doing than dropping off individual piecemeal donations.
The event’s officially slated to run from 6 until 9 p.m., but Ponseca says she expects it to go all night, or at least until the beer runs out. “I have a feeling that tonight, we’re going to be really crazy,” she says.
Stay tuned for details on that upcoming large-scale benefit, which Ponseca says is modeled after the Live Aid benefits of the 80s. “That one’s going to be big,” she says.