Donatos workers tell of their experience

·5 min read

Aug. 4—A slurry of tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and pepperoni flied around the kitchen of Donatos Pizza all day long, but the storm was especially torrential Tuesday when the workers of Donatos were able to band together to help the victims of the worst flooding eastern Kentucky has ever seen.

After Donatos of Somerset owner Chuck Coldiron posted on his outside billboard that all sales on Tuesday would go to the flood victims of eastern Kentucky, local residents came out in droves for a tasty pizza with money going to a good cause.

Gina Fisher, a worker at Donatos told of how even the day-to-day preparation that Donatos requires to run was almost impossible to fulfill while new orders were coming in.

"On top of getting everything prepped, we go through the process of prepping a lot of pizzas throughout the day just for quick access. We had to get quite a few done on top of just our prep, and then the phones started ringing. We couldn't even answer it after 10 or 10:30," said Fisher. "It was just ringing off the hook."

However, Fisher said she enjoyed the experience and was happy to do what she could.

"It was crazy. Very, very crazy. But it was rewarding. When people started coming through the drive-thru and walking in they were so gracious for what we were doing," said Fisher.

The workers talked about the need to keep up with demand was an all-hands-on-deck moment for the store, and tackling the never-ending string of tickets was no easy task.

"We had several of them come in, and everybody was just non-stop," Fisher siad. "I didn't have time to sit down. I don't think any of us did. It was just constant, constant, constant."

Fisher estimated that there were over a hundred people in the dining room just during the morning shift. On top of this, cars were backed almost into the highway just to go through the drive-thru.

"It was nice to have people coming through the drive-thru, being so grateful, and leaving money last night," continued Fisher.

Another worker, Jaylen Ebenkamp told of how customers were supplying extra donations on top of the money they were giving with the pizza.

Said Ebenkamp of one customer who had to leave before the team could complete their order, "Someone last night, they had to leave, but they said 'just keep the money, I have to go back home,' so that was awesome. I don't even think they were from Somerset."

"We're very grateful that we had a chance to help in some way. We had an awesome team last night," Ebenkamp added.

Donna Joseph, who has been a loyal work to Somerset's Donatos for two decades, said the workday was the most chaotic she'd ever experienced.

Said Joseph, "We were just really crazy busy. I've never seen it that busy before, but it went good. It was for a good cause, and I like being busy because it makes time go faster!"

Coldiron spoke on the physical toll of keeping up with the orders.

"[After I got home], I ate me a bite to eat, and I laid down. My ribs were so sore. I've never worked that hard," Coldiron said. "The whole 20 years I've worked here, I've never seen it that busy, busy."

Joseph said it was very short-staffed as well due to many workers enjoying vacation.

"We had to call a lot of people in to help us out," she said.

While the workers spoke on what they did to hold the store together, Somerset Donatos owner Chuck Coldiron vaunted their labor.

"Every employee that we had was working. Many of them worked in excess of twelve hours," said Coldiron. "There wasn't even room for another person to work in the kitchen."

He spoke on the attitude that the workers had. Despite the grueling hours they had to work, they remained resilient.

"I can't say enough about the team at Donatos that worked excruciatingly hard and yet were doing it with charity in their heart and a smile on their face. It makes me so very proud to be associated with those folks," said Coldiron.

Coldiron also spoke on what the city of Somerset did to ensure Donatos had a day of success.

"The response from the community has been fantastic. I've even had people ask today if we could do it again because they couldn't get in yesterday," said Coldiron. "It was an amazing response by an amazing community."

"It was a record day of sales at Donatos," stated Coldiron. "We are grateful to the people who came in to support the cause. We had people who had heard about this who lived several counties away and drove over for the sole purpose of supporting the eastern Kentucky flood relief effort."

"All [six] of the restaurants together raised in excess of $66,000," said Coldiron.

The six restaurants he referred to include the Somerset Donatos and the five Arby's location Coldiron's company owns in central Kentucky that also contributed their total sales to eastern Kentucky.

"Every penny of that money will go to [Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund], and my family is going to subsidize that," said Coldiron. "On top of what we're already giving from the stores, our family is going to give personally, and we're going to see that the total exceeds $75,000."

Coldiron echoed the sentiment of his workers. He claimed customers would give extra money with their orders with the request it all be sent to eastern Kentucky.

"People handed me or my team members money anywhere from 45¢ to $200 and said they wanted to contribute additionally above the price of their pizza. I cried when a lady walked back in after eating to tell me, 'I just wanted to let you know that I prayed for your restaurant this morning,'" said Coldiron. "That sort of community is a community that anybody would want to be a part of and support any way they can."