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Community Pitches in to Support Oswald Restaurant

Oswald owner and chef Damani Thomas receives outpouring in time of need

Like some kind of crazy metaphor for 2020, everything seemed to be breaking down at Oswald over the last couple of weeks: a $5,000 hot water heater, various compressors for the freezer, and other restaurant equipment. That was on top of rising operating costs and Covid-19’s decimation of the dining scene.

“It was too much,” says owner and chef Damani Thomas. “I was like, ‘Something’s gotta give.”

Or someone. In fact, a lot of people. Last Friday, Oswald posted a GoFundMe with a goal of $10,000. By the next day, it had raised $25,000. As of press time, locals had contributed more than $30,000 to the “Keep Oswald Alive” fund.

“I was completely blown away,” says Thomas. “I’m still in shock.”

The comments from donors say as much as the monetary totals about Oswald’s stock in Santa Cruz. “It’s an institution and a treasure,” wrote Bill Kempf. Geoff and Sandy Eisenberg addressed Thomas’ own history of giving in the community: “Damani, for so many years, you donated your precious free time and effort to support kids and schools … Many of us will never forget your generosity and consideration, and wish only good things for you.”

Some wrote about Oswald’s culinary excellence, while others wrote about the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses, though you have to wonder if Andrew Dao got a little overenthusiastic with his comment “Keep this Big Black Sexy MFer in business!”

Actually … nah, that was pretty cool.

Thomas says he’s honored by all the contributions and comments, and to live in a community that remains dedicated to giving. He’s found the whole experience inspiring.

“It makes me want to buckle down and work even harder,” he says. 

 Visit gofundme.com/f/keep-oswald-alive to donate.

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