As Florida’s theme parks closed, reopened, and eventually began operating at reduced capacities to slow the spread of COVID-19, they laid off a number of cast members.
Fortunately, cast members are a resilient bunch who watch out for each other’s wellbeing. The Cast Member Pantry, for example, has offered food and other essential items to those who have had a difficult time making ends meet, a DisneyDining.com story explains. Another initiative was Cast Member Toy Box, which helped to make sure the children of laid-off cast members had Christmas presents.
Now there’s another way cast members are helping each other: Cast Co-op, a nonprofit-run shop where laid-off tourism workers can sell craft items they made and also receive direct assistance.
“This pandemic has affected so many people in the hospitality industry,” Sandra Cagan told the Orlando Sentinel. When her town center had an empty convenience store, Cagan offered the space to the Cast Co-op. “While a lot of people have gotten calls to go back to work, not everybody has. A lot of people are still struggling.”
One Way To Help
There are two parts of the Cast Co-op. The first part, which is open to the public, offers a way for unemployed Disney workers to sell homemade crafts, the Sentinel reports. Vendors are required to pay a one-time $25 application fee as well as a nominal fee for their booths, which goes toward covering the store’s overhead.
One vendor is Laura Braunston, who, while waiting for a callback from Disney, sells hair scrunchies with Mickey Mouse ears, customized covers for various objects, and other items. In other words, anything “she can make with a sewing machine and a glue gun.”
The Cast Co-op also offers free basic groceries and household supplies — ranging from diapers to pet food. Regardless of whether they have been furloughed or seen their hours cut, hospitality workers are eligible to receive groceries and supplies at the co-op, according to the Sentinel. Grants are also available for limited financial assistance if people need help paying their bills.
“We don’t want to turn anyone away,” Kimmie Hall, who became president of the nonprofit running the co-op after getting laid off from her Disney guest relations job, told the Sentinel. “We’re all family. We’re all in the same boat together.”
“While it’s great the hospitality industry is coming back slowly — and I think slowly is the operative word — it’s not like everything is open again,” Cagan told the Sentinel. “[The co-op] will stay until there’s no more need. I don’t know how long that’s going to be. We’re willing to offer the space for as long as it’s needed.”
The Cast Co-op is located at 16744 Cagan Crossings in Clermont, Florida. It’s open on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information about becoming a vendor, a shopper, and how to make donations can be found here.