Just Joel’s owner ‘proud’ of Tri-Citians for raising $20K in less than 24 hours to support students

Joel Watson

KENNEWICK, Wash. — A fundraiser to buy headphones for Tri-Cities students has received well over 300 donations, raising $20,000 and counting in less than 24 hours.

Joel Watson, owner of Just Joel’s Cafe, said he created the fundraiser on Facebook with help from his “big home Steve Lee,” a Kennewick politician and business owner, to support kids who will be learning at home from a laptop at home instead of the classroom. He announced the fundraiser to his restaurant’s 37,000+ Facebook followers on Thursday. Lee pledged to match up to $5,000 in donations for the cause.

The fundraiser instantly exploded, hitting its goal of $10,000 in about two hours. The goal was stretched to $20,000, which was also met with ease.

At the time this article was written, the fundraiser had received over 340 donations for a total of about $22,000. On top of that, Watson said he’s gotten about $4,000 in cash from local businesses and members of the community.

So far, Watson’s fundraiser has received support from Tumbleweeds Mexican Flair, Hot Mess Burgers and Fries, Spare Time Lanes, Pro-Cut Concrete Cutting, Tri-Cities Cider House and Al Moreno at Country Financial.

Watson said he was in complete shock when he saw how many donations poured in in such a short period of time.

In an interview with KAPP-KVEW, Watson expressed several joyful emotions for how he felt, but if he had to pick one, it would be proud.

“Proud is the word. Proud of my community, proud of everybody. Just proud,” Watson said. He later stated, “I’m completely thrilled with the enthusiasm of our community wanting to do good together.”

Watson said he’s in the process of figuring out where to buy the headphones in bulk and how to distribute them. He also said he may use some of the cash donations he’s received on generic school supplies for kids in the community.

The Kennewick and Richland school boards voted this week to start school remotely in September. Pasco is expected to make a decision next week.