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Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub feeds people in wake of Covid-19

A small town pub did what they could in the face of government restrictions to alleviate the extra stress brought on by the pandemic during the holiday season. Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub in Toronto has been in “The Biz” for about 30 years, starting in the back of the house and as a chef. As an owner, he saw profits declining and employees struggling to get by due to the pandemic and the forced government lockdowns. In his frustration, he realized he was better off than many in his community. Many of the businesses local to him are now up for lease as the lockdowns continued.

When asked during an interview with CBC what the process was of deciding who they were handing out meals to, he replied: “No questions asked. Just call the pub. You tell us where you work or where you worked, give us your dietary restrictions, your food allergies, and we’ll have a hot meal ready for you.” As word spread around the tight-knit community The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub received offers to partner with breweries. The breweries who loved his idea wanted to find a way to help as well. They lent a hand by offering drinks to go with the meals.

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub
Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub.

Murie got the idea after posting a long Faceboook “rant” centered around his frustration in seeing his community struggle. The expanded and increased lockdowns recently announced were causing further harm to small businesses in the area, forcing many to close. But what really got the ball rolling were the comments under his post. Particularly the ones describing their personal experience. Paraphrasing the general sentiment, he described the comments that led him to change his mindset, “You know Chris at least you still have the business. At least you still have a way of making a living and supporting your family. And if you apply yourself you’ll get through this.” Murie went on to say, “For some of these folks they have zero. Like, they have nothing. And it made me feel real selfish, especially at this time of year. It’s not a time to be selfish. It’s a time to give, and that’s sorta how it all went down.”

The owner of the locally loved Dizzy Gastro Pub could not be prouder of the way the community has come together. “This is an amazing neighborhood. I’ve been here for 15 years. We went through construction down here about 12 years ago and this neighborhood supported us through all of that. And I couldn’t be luckier to be in the neighborhood that we’re in. We are getting a ton of phone calls. The breweries are kicking in beer here. People are bringing free pop today. It’s just, it’s an incredible neighborhood, it really is, it’s like a little village.”

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub

When asked about the future of The Dizzy Gastro Pub during the lockdowns and pandemic he replied, “Well, we don’t know. The truth is we don’t know what’s gonna happen. We have a good landlord who is working with us, as we’ve been here for so long. So, we’re fortunate there. It just depends on what happens with our takeout and delivery, and if it’s enough to meet our fixed costs every month.” Despite the uncertain future he gladly lent a helping hand to the people in their small town.

 Murie decided to be generous in a time of personal need to help his community. Even though he was also hurting from the pandemic and lockdowns, he was fortunate enough to be in a position to help others. And he voluntarily did just that. The following quote he gave during the interview pretty much summed up his mentality behind offering to feed those struggling saying, “I can’t do a lot. I’m just a little guy, but we can give them a positive experience and offer them a hot meal.”

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Barristers Sponsor Food Bank Renovation

Barristers sponsor food bank renovation in honor of Joe Burke at Debra Dynes Family House.

An Ottawa-based food bank was in desperate need of some much-needed renovations. Barristers for a Better Bytown, a charity that operates by raising funds to help support other charitable organizations, took on the $17,000 project for the food bank at Debra Dynes Family House. They decided to dedicate this particular project to Joe Burke, an Ottawa criminal defense lawyer.

In Joe’s time as a lawyer he often took on cases with little to no pay and dedicated his time and craft defending marginalized groups who ended up in the criminal justice system. He was particularly known for defending the rights of Indigenous people. He became interested in spending his time helping those who were caught up in the criminal justice system when he went to Queen’s University and became a member of the Correctional Law Project. This project focused on working with inmates, where his interest in assisting Indigenous people began. He would often meet with elders in prison sweat lodges.

barristers sponsor food bank renovation
Joe Burke. PHOTO BY WAYNE HIEBERT /Postmedia files

During his time working with inmates and Indigenous people he became close friends with fellow defense lawyer Mark Ertel. According to the Ottowa Citizen, Ertel says the charity is dedicated to assist the Debra Dynes Family House whenever possible. Burke passed away nearly 20 years ago but his legacy of helping others still lives on. Barristers for a Better Bytown thought it would be an excellent opportunity to pay their respects to a man who dedicated his life to helping those whose in need. He’s even honored annually at the Joe Burke Wolfe Island Literary Festival, which was started by locally adored musician David Bidini of the Rhestatics. Joe Burke was an excellent example of the kind of impact one man can voluntarily have on so many, by living a life lead by loving and caring for others.

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Volunteer Rescues 100 Pounds of Food

Sometimes, helping people is just a matter of keeping your eyes open. This was the case with one of our volunteers who was on the lookout for opportunities to help at his local hospital. He discovered that the hospital was tossing out almost 100 pounds of a nutritional supplement that was slightly over the best-buy date. He also knew that the local food bank accepts non-perishable items up to a year after their best-buy date. It was a simple matter to politely ask if he could take the supplements to the food bank. The hospital staff cheerfully agreed, and even helped him carry the boxes to his car.

volunteer rescues 100 pounds of food
Our friendly volunteer dropping off the rescued food at the food bank.

Because one person was on the lookout for ways to help, the food bank got 100 pounds of food that otherwise would have been wasted. “I’m just glad I was able to help,” the volunteer said. “It just cost me a quick drive, and this food could really help people.” Voluntary giving doesn’t have to be a matter of money. Sometimes all that’s necessary is keeping a lookout for opportunities and having the will to take advantage of them.

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FDA Tried To Punish Distilleries for Helping During the Pandemic

One good turn deserves a hefty slap on the wrist. That seems to be the sentiment at the FDA. In the early days of the pandemic, distilleries started producing hand sanitizer to meet a hugely increased demand. But the FDA tried to punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic.

When the mainstream news told people to panic about the coronavirus, they happily obliged. PPE and hand sanitizer were soon sold out everywhere. But as we knew, people still wanted to help others voluntarily. Distilleries decided that since they produce alcohol for drinking, switching to alcohol for sanitizing would be an easy way to help their communities.

Many distilleries, especially community-minded local craft distilleries, started producing hand sanitizer. Aaron Bergh, president and distiller at Calwise Spirits in Paso Robles, California, was one example. “Some of my hand sanitizer was donated,” he said in a statement to Reason.com. “The rest was sold at a fraction of the market price.”

FDA Tried To Punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic
(Calwise Spirits)

This served a dual role of helping the community by providing sanitizer and jobs—jobs which were nearly lost due to the government’s lockdowns. Bergh said “My goal was to get as much [sanitizer] out as I could, at as low of a price as I could, while being able to bring my furloughed employees back to work. The hand sanitizer business saved me from bankruptcy—but I didn’t make an enormous profit.”

But a nasty surprise awaited the generous entrepreneurs: because they made hand sanitizer, the CARES act classifies them as “over-the-counter drug monograph facilities.” This means that FDA is punishing distilleries for helping during the pandemic with a $14,060 fine. Many of these distilleries are small businesses—already struggling financially due to government regulations and lockdowns.

FDA Tried To Punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic
Robby Verheyen of 4 Hands Brewing Company loads gallon jugs of hand sanitizer into a van for delivery in St. Louis on Friday, March 27, 2020. (BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/Newscom)

“We want to push back on this,” said Becky Harris, president of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and of Catoctin Creek Distilling in Purcellville, Virginia. The distilleries only produced hand sanitizer for a short time, in a public-spirited response to a crisis. “If you were making sanitizer for your community at a limited capacity, this should not be something you have to deal with,” says Harris. “It will be a slap in the face to make it through all of this and then get hit with this bill.”

Fortunately, thanks to a huge public outcry, the Department of Health and Human Services stepped in to cancel the fines on these do-gooder distilleries. But the punishment for helping during a pandemic, simply to gather more money for the government, should never have been considered. It’s ironic that the CARES Act—the government’s alleged effort to help people during the COVID pandemic—would have hurt the very people who voluntarily stepped up to help, as when the FDA tried to punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic. But that’s the nature of government intervention—someone is always hurt. And it strengthens our case that voluntary charity is more effective than government welfare—and that voluntaryism is the only moral way to organize a society.

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Alpenglow Sports: A Ski Shop that Gives Back

On Tahoe City’s main street exists a ski and climbing shop that is more than what it appears. With a consistent base of local customers and visitors, Alpenglow Sports has been a city staple since its opening in 1979. Its wooden cozy interior and friendly atmosphere has attracted a lot of thrill seekers who are drawn to taking on the mountains. With the current COVID pandemic, the shop has had to adjust their policies to correspond with social distancing measures and took a hit on sales badly during the onset of stay-at-home orders issued by the government—like many other small businesses who have suffered during lockdowns. But after some help from the Tahoe community, Alpenglow has continued to have lines out the door onto the sidewalks of Main Street. While Alpenglow is mainly a ski shop utilized for gear and other like necessities, it is also a ski shop that gives back, thanks to the efforts of the generous owner Brenden Madigan and their successful fundraising for local non-profits.  

Ski Shop that Gives Back
The inside of Alpenglow ski shop. Looks warm and inviting, doesn't it? Photo by Scott Rokis/Courtesy of Alpenglow

This fall, Alpenglow sports raised over $300,000 for local NPOs while they hosted an event called the Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series. This is an annual event is centered around sharing stories, and photos of adventures had in the mountains while paying it forward through inspiration and charity. Alpenglow has hosted slideshows for many figures of outdoor sports including American rock climber Tommy Caldwell and ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson.

During the fifteen years of the Winter Speaker Series history, over half a million dollars in total has been raised and given to various non-profits like the Sierra Avalanche Center and the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe. This event is a special time for the local residents and visitors to experience togetherness and show their support for improving their community. It is a free event, but all proceeds from raffles and bar sales go to non-profits. The Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series is just one of the experiential events that Brendan Madigan, the owner of Alpenglow, has created in North Lake Tahoe. There is also the Broken Arrow Skyrace and the Alpenglow Mountain Festival.

ski shop that gives back
The Donor Party, established in 2018, is the philanthropic arm of the Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series. Photo courtesy of Alpenglow

“Alpenglow has always been an influential part of the Tahoe and greater-than-Tahoe Community,” expresses Dave Nettle, who has also had a slideshow featured in the Winter Speaker Series about his experiences as a mountain guide and skier.

The owner of Alpenglow Sports is Brenden Madigan, who has been working at Alpenglow since 2003. He purchased the shop in 2011, and since then has made it a personal mission to center the shop’s importance around reciprocating the love the long standing community has that has kept Alpenglow alive in its forty year life span. “I think people derive happiness not from things, but from experiences and relationships. Our whole business centers arounds giving back to the community,” says Madigan.

Madigan’s efforts have created a centerpiece for events and fundraising, and during the current pandemic, he stresses that the need has never been greater saying, “People are struggling. My goal is to move the needle in the community by making direct impact in people’s lives.”


It was during the initial COVID lockdowns that Madigan reached out to his community for Alpenglow. Its future was looking grim. The response was overwhelming, and they were able to sell over $100,000 worth of gift cards to keep going. But since then – business hasn’t stopped and Madigan plans to keep his doors open for a long time.

And truly, what a perfect example of the power of giving individuals who stop at nothing to help improve the place where they live by exercising voluntaryism and kindness. North Lake Tahoe, you have wonderful residents and small business owners whose tireless work allows the wheel to keep turning.

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Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

One of the only good things about the tyrannical reaction to the pandemic has been the outpouring of support for people the government has hurt. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to state restrictions and lockdowns. But people are stepping up to help where the government inevitably hurts. For example, one chef is offering free meals to jobless individuals at his restaurants.

Chef Andrew Gruel (his food is better than his name) is a judge on the Food Network and the co-host of the SoCal Restaurant Show. He also owns Slapfish Seafood—a restaurant chain with 27 locations in the US—and the Big Parm pizzeria. On 3 December, Chef Gruel took to Twitter to remind everyone that people who had lost their jobs could get a free meal at his restaurants.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Hundreds of commenters raved about not only the Chef’s food, but about his kindness and generosity, and his willingness to assist those whom the state had harmed. Some people even offered to pay for the meals of jobless folks who take Chef Gruel up on his offer.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Predictably, not everyone was happy about people helping other people. The propaganda put out by the government and mainstream media has warped many people’s sense of right and wrong, even to the point where voluntarily helping people in distress is denounced as “selfishness.”

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless
Fortunately, most negative comments were few and far between.

Another common criticism of charity such as Chef Gruel’s is that greedy people will take advantage of his generosity, nobody will pay for meals, and he’ll lose money and go out of business. On the contrary, over the weekend the restaurants pulled in double the usual business as people flocked in to support Chef Gruel. And that money, Chef Gruel said, would be used to give his employees a holiday bonus.

The general condition of humanity is that people feel empathy for each other and want to help. This is why voluntary charity works—as the example of Chef Gruel and many more like him demonstrate.

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Toronto Carpenter is Defying the City to Help the Homeless

Khaleel Seivwright is building insulated, mobile shelters for homeless people this winter. (CBC)

Winter in Canada is no joke. With average temperatures below freezing, Toronto is no exception. Shelter is essential to prevent Canadians from freezing to death. Yet the economic consequences of the government’s reaction to COVID-19 have left an increasing number of Canadians on the streets as winter looms closer. But one Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless.

Khaleel Seivwright, a 28-year-old carpenter, noticed the increasing numbers of homeless people in Toronto. Determined to do something about it, he started constructing small shelters and giving them away for free. With wooden walls, fiberglass insulation, a door, and a window, the shelters are nothing fancy. But they will keep people warm and could be the difference between life and death for some Canadians this winter—even though the shelters are technically illegal.

Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless
Ritchie is living in one of the completed shelters near Lake Ontario. Seivwright says Ritchie was living in a tent before he delivered the shelter. (Khaleel Seivwright)

“It just seemed like something I could do that would be useful because there’s so many people staying in tents,” said Seivwright. “I’ve never seen so many people staying outside in parks, and this is something I could do to make sure people staying outside in the winter could survive.”

Predictably, the government officials who get paid with taxpayer money when there are homeless people are not thrilled about Seivwright’s efforts. Gord Tanner, director of homelessness initiatives and prevention at the Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, admitted that “the system is very busy and very full.” With winter still on the way and the Canadian government’s COVID economic restrictions still crushing businesses, homelessness will likely continue to rise.

Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless
A Toronto homeless encampment is pictured in late May. Homelessness advocates say they expect to see more people living outdoors this winter due to the economic downturn caused by the government's COVID-19 restrictions. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Despite this, in an interview with CBC Tanner refused to say if the city would take a more lenient approach to mobile shelters or other encampments this winter, though he noted that mobile shelters can pose “significant” risks to occupants, including as potential fire hazards. Reporters from CBC apparently did not ask Tanner if he thought homeless people would prefer the certainty of death from exposure to the risk of death by fire.

In any case, Seivwright says that the threat of law enforcement won’t deter him from helping people in need. “This is what I know how to do, this is what seems to be viable, so I’m going to continue to do this.” Each shelter costs about $1,000 in new material and takes Seivwright eight hours to construct. Seivwright is paying for the project largely through a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign—funded with voluntary donations.

Advocates for the homeless are urging the City of Toronto to dramatically increase the capacity of its shelter system, which would require forcibly taking money from taxpayers—and a large chunk of that would end up in the pockets of administrators. But as this Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless, his  fundraising campaign exceeded the $20K goal by more than 400% in less than a month. Last week, Seivwright increased the goal to $200K—and as of this writing, it’s more than halfway complete. That means potentially lifesaving shelters for hundreds of Canadians, from an outpouring of kindness and compassion. That’s the power of voluntaryism in action.

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Anchorage Diner Defies COVID-19 Orders

Kriner’s Diner is a small, family-owned business. They’re a staple of Anchorage Alaska, where people can grab their delicious food any time of the day. But like most small businesses, they were hit hard by the initial wave of government-mandated COVID-19 closures. As Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz continues to impose ever more draconian measures on the populace, diner owner Andy Kriner has decided that he’s had enough. Now this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, both to continue serving food and to thumb their nose at the tyrannical government.


Kriner refused to bow to the newest order to shut down dine-in service, and made no effort to discriminate against customers not wearing masks. When word got out, customers flooded into Kriner’s—not only to enjoy their delicious food, but to support them against the government. Many people, seeing the dining room full, left a monetary donation rather than wait to eat. “The people have spoken!” announced a waitress, brandishing another donation. So many people started donating that the employees set up a special donation receptacle so they had more time to serve customers.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
The "stop work" order, fastened to the front door of Kriner's Diner.

The Municipality of Anchorage, furious that people are thinking and acting for themselves, issued a stop work order to the diner on 4 Aug, threatening fines and imprisonment if the Kriner family and their employees returned to work without the government’s permission. Kriner’s cheerfully announced on their Facebook page that they would close early on 4 Aug to prepare for opening on the next day—which they did, to a packed house.

After attempting to call for comment and receiving a busy signal all day, I finally dropped by the diner to investigate the situation and their food (the burgers are great!). The employees had taken the phone off the hook, because there’s nobody available to answer it during the day. When businesses in Anchorage were allowed to reopen, some of Kiner’s employees realized they could make more money at home collecting the government’s new unemployment checks. “People just aren’t coming in to work,” Andy Kriner, the diner’s founder and owner, explained.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders

Currently, the diner is only open from 9AM to 3PM, and is not offering to-go orders. “I only have one cook now,” Kiner said. “He can’t cook dining room and carryout. I can’t do that to him.” This is just one more example of how the ostensibly well-intentioned actions of the government inevitably end up hurting the most vulnerable people.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
Andy Kriner outside his diner. Image credit: Kriner's Diner

Despite the difficulties that Kriner’s faces, the people of Anchorage who are sick of the tyranny of their government have rallied around the small diner. Other businesses, like the Little Dipper Diner (also of Anchorage) have also refused to comply with government mandates and subsequent “stop work” orders. Hopefully, more people and businesses will begin to emulate Kriner’s Diner and the good people of Anchorage in taking back their rights from oppressive governments.


The best part is that people who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 are free to stay away from Kriner’s. The experience of Sweden shows that coercive government mandates like the Anchorage establishments are rebelling against are not necessary to “flatten the curve.” As this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, Kriner’s is standing up for people to do things voluntarily, without immoral coercion from the government. As we say here at VIA, good ideas don’t require force.

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Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover

Pokemon GO is a game focused on getting out and doing things. In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, along with protests and riots that rocked the world, businesses were left in ruins. Niantic (the developer of Pokemon GO) is getting the Pokemon GO community involved in the recovery efforts. But how can Pokemon GO players help businesses recover?

For those who don’t know, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality smartphone game that allows players to catch in-game monsters (the Pokemon) by traveling to real-world locations. Two big mechanics of the game are PokeStops, which allow players to acquire items and quests, and Gyms, which players can conquer for their team and place their Pokemon to guard.

Naturally, these real-world locations attract many Pokemon GO players. Many of the locations are civic or cultural landmarks such as parks and churches, but Niantic has also allowed businesses to pay a fee to make their operations into “sponsored” PokeStops, thereby drawing Pokemon GO-playing customers.

Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover
Image Credit: Niantic

But now Niantic is taking a different approach—one that will let Pokemon GO Players help businesses recover. “At Niantic, we are passionate about bringing communities together and lifting one another up, through the good times and the challenging times,” the company said on their blog. “We understand that many local businesses have experienced unprecedented hardship over the past few months, and we want to help.”

It’s one thing for a big company like Niantic to help businesses, but where to the players come in? The blog continued: “We are inviting Pokémon GO players to nominate their favorite small, local businesses to participate in the Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative. As part of our efforts to assist the economic recovery of local businesses, we are committed to supporting 1,000 nominated businesses by providing them complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year.

In other words, Niantic will turn the winning storefronts into PokeStops and Gyms in the Pokemon GO game. The businesses will even have access to exclusive in-game promotions. This will raise awareness of the small businesses, draw more traffic to the stores, and help them on the road to economic recovery.

The nominations are open until 31 July, so if you’re a Pokemon GO player head on over and nominate your favorite local business that’s in need of a boost! If you don’t play Pokemon GO, then take a moment to appreciate how people voluntarily help each other in new and innovative ways.

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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