Andra Tomsa uses her spare time to help hungry New Yorkers by asking those who dine out to give a little extra. John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.
Andra Tomsa came to the Bronx nine years ago to study economics, eventually earning a masters in the subject from Fordham University.
Her real education about money, however, came from another job that helped pay her bills: bartending.
"That's where the money is, in nightlife,” Tomsa said. “It’s in that mindset you have when you go out you're like, ‘OK I'm just going to forget about all my problems for the night I'm going to spend as much money as I want to.’”
Now Andra is trying to get a little bit of that money together for a good cause.
She calls it Spare Change and how it works is patrons in participating bars and restaurants can round their bill up the next dollar and the money is donated to the Food Bank For New York City.
Tomsa started the project at the beginning of the year and it's already gaining traction.
Parlor Steakhouse on the Upper East Side was her first restaurant to start "rounding up” after the owner heard how much of the money will actually reach hungry New Yorkers.
“So many charities out there, so many of the dollars don't end up going to the actual charity and that’s one of the biggest things that she's trying to push is that the majority of the dollars will end up in the hands of the needy,” said Michael Glick, owner of Parlor Steakhouse.
The Food Bank will get nearly three quarters of the money raised from six participating restaurants. The rest is used for operating costs, but none of it goes to Andra.
In fact, she and her partner Natalie say they won't take salaries until the non-profit signs 100 restaurants.
That commitment is appreciated at the Food Bank.
"We have 1.5 million New Yorkers who utilize our services, which is staggering to me,” said Tiffany de la Torre of the Food Bank For New York City. "The fact that she is so committed to our mission is really going to go a long way.”
"I don't understand why certain people in society can have so much and other people can have so little and people don't want to do something about it,” Tomsa said.
Andra Tomsa is trying to do something about it and that's why she's our New Yorker of the Week.
To learn more about rounding up with Spare Change, go to www.sparechangeINTL.com.