More than $40,000 has been donated so far to the Fund the Grind GoFundMe page. (Source: Jordan Patrick Photography)

Restauranteur Jordan Rulloda has been grinding through this pandemic. He owns Bar’kada on Queen Street West in Toronto, and says there have been many challenges during this time.

“I got this space at the end of 2019, and we never knew about COVID, obviously, so we signed a 10 year lease,” he tells CTV News Toronto. “Because my business was in 2020, we’re not getting that relief, rent relief, wage subsidy that they’re saying all small businesses get.”

Rulloda says he and his small team have pivoted the best they can.

“We’re just doing takeout and delivery,” he explains. “Trying to tell staff if they’re coming in for work or not, depending on sales or on the lockdown procedures and all that stuff, that’s the struggles about it.”

It’s stories like Rulloda’s that inspired Burlington men Travis Kanellos and Dan Lomas to help out. The longtime friends say hearing the experience of small business owners hits close to home.

“I’ve run a small business now for over a decade,” Kanellos says. “Two of my grandparents came over here from Greece and opened up a restaurant. Looking at guys like Jordan, that’s tough. And we’re morally not alright with that.”

“You hear other people’s stories about this kind of hardship and you just want to stand up, you just want to do something about it,” adds Lomas.

Together, Kanellos and Lomas launched ‘Fund the Grind 2021.’ It’s an online campaign to collect donations for small business owners in need through a GoFundMe page.

Fund the Grind 2021 launched at the beginning of the year, and already they have raised close to $40,000, thanks to generous donors. Kanellos and Lomas have already started distributing that money to business owners who have reached out to them, including Rulloda.

“It’s crazy. I couldn’t believe it when they gave me a call,” Rolluda says. “I thought it was a joke!”

Kanellos and Lomas say they feel they have a duty to help.

“You know when I look at my situation, I’m fortunate to be where I am,” says Kanellos.

“These people are pivoting despite being thrown insanely hard situations,” Lomas says. “Small business is a part of our lives, it always has been, and I think it always will be. It’s a vital part of our community, and to be honest we don’t feel comfortable letting that die.”

The co-founders of Fund the Grind 2021 say they have no plans of wrapping up the fundraiser, as there is no end date in sight for the pandemic.

“We want this word out there because at the end of the day we’re not satisfied with the amount of people we’ve helped so far, the amount of money we’ve raised,” Lomas tells CTV News. “We want this to get way bigger.”

Rulloda says he’s grateful for the fundraiser, and hopes that more of his neighbours will benefit from its generosity.

“It just shows that there’s good people out there,” he says. “I really believe in this area - Queen West to me is one of the hearts of downtown Toronto. If we’re all in this together, then let’s be all in this together.”

You can support Fund the Grind 2021 here.