Just Joel’s owner raises over $10K in two hours to support distance-learning students

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KENNEWICK, Wash. — Joel Watson is making sure kids are a little more prepared for distance learning this fall.

Watson, owner of Just Joel’s Cafe on Kennewick Avenue, came up with an idea to provide hundreds of headphones to students in need as school districts were deciding if they should hold classes remotely because of the pandemic.

This week, local school districts voted against in-person classes to start the school year, meaning their classes will largely be taught online with students listening in from laptops at home. So on Thursday morning, Watson made his idea public — that he wanted to buy headphones in bulk to give to students.

He collaborated with his friend, Kennewick Mayor Pro-tem Steve Lee, to set up a Facebook fundraiser called “Beats by Joel: A fundraiser to benefit local Distance Learners”.

For those who don’t know, Watson is a popular guy.

His restaurant’s Facebook page has over 37,000 followers, and he’s well-known for giving back to the Tri-Cities community. So within a few hours of posting about the fundraiser on his restaurant’s page, the idea was immediately met with support from other local businesses.

Hot Mess Burgers and Fries announced it would be selling a specialty burger with all proceeds going to the cause. Tumbleweeds Mexican Flair said it would be auctioning off gift cards and Tri-Cities Cider House said it’d be giving $5o for every one of its memberships sold until the fundraiser met its goal. Steve Lee vowed to match up to $5,000 in donations.

Incredibly, the fundraiser met its goal of $10,000 in just two hours — and it has already surpassed that figure by several thousand dollars. The goal has since been stretched to $20,000.

Click here if you’d like to make a contribution.