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'Split the Bill' restaurant-relief program coming to Hempstead

At HonduMex in Hempstead, a freshly made baleada

At HonduMex in Hempstead, a freshly made baleada is filled with beans, scrambled eggs, avocado and cheese. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

After successful runs in Farmingdale, Valley Stream and Westbury, the restaurant-relief program, Split the Bill, is coming to Hempstead. On Wednesday, July 22, dine at any participating eatery in Hempstead, upload a picture of your receipt to splitthebillny.com, and half your bill, up to $30, will be returned to you via PayPal or Venmo.

Among the participating establishments are HonduMex (58 Main St., where a cook pressed out and griddled a fresh baleada for me, schmearing it with beans and then piling on scrambled eggs, cheese and sliced avocado), Antojito’s Express (458 Peninsula Blvd.), Galilee Deli (235 South Franklin St.) and Jalapeño Grill (114 North Franklin St.).

Split the Bill is funded by the Sidgmore Family Foundation, founded by Long Island native Randi Sidgmore to honor her late husband. Randi and her brother, Jeff Gelbwaks, grew up in Merrick and Jeff raised his children, including daughter Jessica, in Bellmore. The family, he said, “was looking to deploy money to help Long Island businesses — mom and pops, places that probably weren’t going to get PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loans.”

Jeff and Jessica reached out to Vision Long Island director Eric Alexander for help in identifying downtowns that could most benefit from the boost. Initially the idea was to earmark $10,000 to reimburse meals up to $50 over a two-day period but, on May 15, diners in Farmingdale, the first town targeted, depleted the fund in a matter of hours and another $10,000 was added to the pot. (Read about the launch of the program in Farmingdale here.)

For Valley Stream (June 11) and Westbury (June 24), the deal was revised: “We lowered the bill to $30,” Jessica Gelbwaks said, “and instead of a fixed amount, we adjusted the program to one day.” For Hempstead, this means you have to submit your bill by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to be reimbursed.

Thus far, Split the Bill has reimbursed $38,163 and the program has driven more than $82,000 in spending at local restaurants. The Gelbwaks anticipate bringing the program to more Long Island towns before the fund is used up. The Sidgmore Foundation’s ultimate goal is to attract the attention of other family and corporate foundations. “If we could marshal resources from other philanthropists,” Jeff Gelbwaks said, “we could help so many more people, communities and hardworking restaurant owners and their employees.”

But, Jessica pointed out, success is not measured solely by the numbers. “What the restaurants say, what they tell us they have heard from their customers, how people have engaged with us on social media — the feedback we have gotten is amazing.”

Find participating restaurants and all the details on “Split the Bill: Hempstead” at splitthebillny.com.

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