One of Salt Lake City’s proudest assets is our food scene. Heavy-hitting restaurants such as Copper Onion, Takashi, Market Street and Sapa are usually highly recommended by locals to anyone passing through SLC. The folks we have to thank for the large and high-quality selection of places to eat are the creative culinary and business minds behind each restaurant. Hence, we should also direct our gratitude toward the hard work our service-industry workers put in to carry each restaurant owner’s vision out. Matthew Pfohl and his team are actively making that gratitude tangible through One Small Miracle, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of financially supporting uninsured service industry workers and their families facing a medical hardship.
“A lot of times, when people go to dinner or get a drink or go to a coffee shop, they recognize that the person standing behind the counter is a person, right? That is also a person with a story,” says Pfohl, Founder and Executive Director of One Small Miracle. Having worked in the food-and-bar scene for about 12 years in conjunction with co-owning and managing local bar Water Witch, Pfohl has a distinct and earned perspective of the difficulties that can come with working in the service industry. Pfohl says, “That is a person who also has their own medical issues. [In] this industry more than any, there is very little access because of the cost of insurance. So waking up one day with $40,000 of debt as a bartender without insurance, you look at the bills and think, ‘How do I do this?’”
“When people go to dinner or get a drink or go to a coffee shop, they recognize that the person standing behind the counter is a person, right? That is also a person with a story.”
At 29 years old, Pfohl experienced a physical and financial trauma that helped inspire the idea behind One Small Miracle. In 2014, Pfohl suffered from an ischemic stroke while working as a bartender. “I was uninsured at the time—it was a very intimate and visceral experience navigating working in the service industry,” says Pfohl, having gone to work two days after his stroke. “You are working paycheck to paycheck … then something happens that goes unplanned. Oftentimes, you think you are young and this isn’t going to happen to you, then you get hit by a car or have a stroke—you are looking at medical bills that don’t really care if you are a barista or a bartender.”
In this circumstance, Pfohl is very lucky—”Usually, this particular stroke presents itself a lot more seriously. I was walking and talking 30 minutes after I had the stroke,” he says. Pfohl’s luck is something that he does not take lightly, and he takes this into careful consideration through the development of One Small Miracle. He says, “If it takes you three weeks to recover and you are already working paycheck to paycheck, you miss those crucial shifts.”
“Oftentimes, you think you are young and this isn’t going to happen to you, then you get hit by a car or have a stroke—you are looking at medical bills that don’t really care if you are a barista or a bartender.”
With the idea of One Small Miracle in tow, Pfohl was brought together with Emily Capito, the now-Advisor for OSM through a mutual friend. Meeting Capito was a serendipitous opportunity for both Pfohl and the future of One Small Miracle, as she has consulted with nonprofits for seven years now, one of them being the Utah Women’s Giving Circle. Aiding by helping with the 501(c)(3) application and with future grant-writing, Capito has helped kick-start the organization to become an official nonprofit. With the help of crucial teammates, Secretary Erin McAllester and Board Members Tracy Gomez, Jessy Lopez and William Bradshaw, Pfohl’s idea of creating a source of financial support for service-industry workers’ medical expenses began to take shape.
One of the benefits being a 501(c)(3) non profit brings is the ability to request grants to help fund the organization’s cause, in this case to pay the medical and related bills of a One Small Miracle beneficiary. To be able to request grants, the nonprofit must be able to provide a pedigree and one audit from the IRS, things that are difficult for a new organization such as OSM to provide. This offers an opportunity to seek other ways to fund their cause. “There’s the broader community [funding], partnerships and sponsorships. All of that comes together with a real focus on the beneficiaries,” Capito says.
“There’s the broader community [funding], partnerships and sponsorships. All of that comes together with a real focus on the beneficiaries.”
Pfohl’s vision of how partnerships will come to fruition is working hand in hand with local restaurants to serve their beneficiaries. “I have a dream of someone who is coming to Salt Lake for a five-day business trip,” Pfohl says. “They visit the One Small Miracle website, and they can see what businesses are donating to the people of the community that they can base their dining agenda off of.” Pfohl believes that there is a huge shift toward social giving through local business. One example of this idea put into action is The Rose Establishment’s chocolate-chip cookie, where a dollar of every sale goes to the OSM cause. “Some bars will be featuring cocktails. Some restaurants will be doing dishes,” says Pfohl.
As the local businesses come together to support Pfohl’s vision, the community has congruently lent their support to help beneficiaries financially through dire straits. On Aug. 11, One Small Miracle hosted One Big Miracle at Bar X, a fundraising event benefiting local bartender Alejandro Olivares, who is currently battling cancer. OSM raised give or take $30,000 during this community fundraiser. With the help of the community and supporting businesses, One Small Miracle is able to make a dent in the lives of our service-industry workers, one beneficiary at a time.