Grace in action

The trial run of SWAC (Stewardesses, Waitresses and Cash) was a success. Simone’s Diner server Olivia, at left, received a tip of $700 to put toward the Pitt student’s car fund. On hand to present the gift are, clockwise from left, Lyl Rose, Demetria Danielides, Johnna Zalmallek, Sherry Quinn, Joanne Zahn and Michelle Schocker. /Photo: Judy Macoskey

Like many great ideas, this one started over good food.

Lansdale Place resident Demetria Danielides was having dinner in a West Palm Beach restaurant with a friend, Tony Moré, a disabled Coast Guard vet. When the check came, Tony topped it off with a $100 tip, in recognition of how tough the service industry—restaurants especially—have had it the last couple of years.

As a  flight attendant, Danielides can tell some stories about how tough the last couple of years have been. A little while after her dinner with Tony, she found herself in a hotel in JFK Airport in New York, having dinner with Lyl Rose, a friend and fellow flight attendant, and was surprised to note that she did
something similar.

“She would pay the check with a hundred-dollar bill, and then just leave the rest for the server,” said Danielides.

This was all the inspiration Danielides needed to form SWAC: Stewardesses, Waitresses and Cash.

SWAC is a play on the old SWAK that people used to write on the envelope of a letter (back when we still wrote letters), which meant “Sealed With A Kiss.”

“Our profession was suffering also,” Danielides said. “So I thought, what can we do to make people feel better about flight attendants?”

The plan is for Danielides and several friends to do a little recon to find a restaurant with a server who could benefit most from a surprise cash gift. The friends each put a Ben Franklin in a brightly colored envelope and present it with the check.

They took the club out for a test run at Simone’s on Washington Road one Sunday morning. Their server, chosen after consulting with owner Simone Koutoufaris, was Olivia, a freshman actuarial math major at Pitt, waiting tables to help finance college life. Olivia was predictably shocked in a good way when she received a bright blue envelope containing $700.

“I’m saving up for a car,” she said. “This is really going to help.”

Since the first run was so successful, Danielides and her friends are planning more outings, but they don’t want to say where or when. So if you’re out somewhere and you see a group of ladies passing around a big eye-catching envelope, you may want to keep your eyes open for something magical to happen.

Danielides calls SWAC an example of “grace in action for hardworking people who are doing their best.”