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When a faulty water heater caused a fire in the backroom of this restaurant, the employees were prepared to be out of their jobs.

But instead of a complete staff layoff, the management of El Moro Spirits and Tavern in Durango, Colorado decided to continue paying the employees their regular wages in exchange for giving back to the community.

The staff were paid to volunteer for local causes with the understanding that they would return to their normal jobs once El Moro reopened

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Sarah Moxam, bartender and wine director, used her time to volunteer at the Community Connection’s Holly House, a non-residential day program for adults with developmental disorders. In addition, she gave an extra hand over the holidays to the Durango Community Recreation Center by providing “whatever was needed.”

Volunteer staffers also built lasting relationships and provided help to Colorado conservation via the San Juan Mountains Association and Christmas tree sale, the group’s largest annual fundraiser.

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Others spent their time at a variety of organizations including Wolfwood Refuge, the La Plata County Humane Society, and the Sexual Assault Services Organization, among others.

By the time the store started planning their reopening, 36 of the 42 previous workers rejoined the staff.

“I definitely feel like we were well taken care of and we’re more of a family now. It’s a pretty wonderful thing to know they wanted to keep us around,” Moxam told The Durango Times.

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