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Community Relations

Profile of a 2014 RNA Winner

Profile of a 2014 RNA Winner

Meet Panda Restaurant Group, the 2014 winner of the Large Business Restaurant Neighbor Award.

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State Winners

Cornerstones of Their Communities

The 2015 national recipients of the Restaurant Neighbor awards were selected from 129 engaged, charitable state winners.


Shoreline Grill
Salem, AL

For the last seven years the Shoreline Grill, under the direction of chef/owner James Gruber, has been bringing the community together to cook and serve meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. What started with a goal of feeding 250 people has evolved into an annual event that now touches more than 1,500 lives. “We do many different fundraisers, as well as collect donations from corporate sponsors and individuals,” says Gruber. As the project has grown, others have joined. “Last year we partnered with another local chef, James Keating, to use the River Mill event center. This allowed us to feed more people,” says Gruber. Working side by side with the chefs, more than 100 volunteers now take part in the cooking and delivery of the meals. “We also want to grow this program into other communities until everyone has the pleasure of a fresh cooked meal on Thanksgiving.”

Taco Bell/Tacala Companies
Vestavia Hills, AL

In 2002 Tacala Companies formed Team Tacala Charities with the resolute purpose of helping teens stay in school. “We partner with local organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, to provide financial support to local teens in need and raise awareness of America’s dropout crisis,” says Majorie Perlman, a company representative. Providing more than $311,000 in grants to 40 local organizations and $108,000 for scholarships in support of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens Graduate for Mas program, Tacala has two main objectives: continue to support local teen organizations and increase support for teen team members. “Graduate for Mas provides digital tools, support and an online community that high school students need to stay on track,” says Perlman. “Once registered, teens who promise to graduate can earn points for prizes, rewards and educational support, including scholarships and local mentoring resources.”

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The Dhaba
Tempe, AZ

Raveen Arora, owner of The Dhaba, believes there is nothing more important than community involvement and social responsibility. “I firmly believe the worst sin is not to hate your neighbors, but to be indifferent to their needs,” says Arora.

Raising upwards of $350,000 in five years, The Dhaba, is a proud supporter of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Since 2008 the restaurant has donated 10 free meal bags daily to the hungry and homeless, which translates into 20,000 meals to date. Additionally The Dhaba gives away almost 100 bottles of water daily during the hottest months of the year as well as donating more than $10,000 worth of warm clothing during the colder months. Restaurant employees also spend about 1,000 hours helping clean and keep the rail station litter free. “We also donated valuable land for the crosswalk/bus station in front of our business that benefits almost 3,000 neighbors. More than 200 persons use this facility daily,” says Arora.



Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 



Black Bear Diner’s, Inc.
Redding, CA

More than 3,000 employees in the Black Bear Diner’s system are all in with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since 2008, when the company raised about $30,000, more than 100 wishes to children with life threatening conditions have been granted. “This year our goal is $250,000 in the hope that we can reach more than $1 million total donated since our involvement,” says Jolisa Johnson, corporate marketing director. In December of each year the 63-unit system donates $1 from every pie, cake or cobbler sold while also developing specific wish-inspired desserts. “Our franchise community has embraced this effort wholeheartedly with locations hosting Make-A-Wish families for kick off and reveal meals,” says Johnson. Staff is very involved with this effort wearing T-shirts and buttons to help energize guests. “It really is a very special month-long celebration,” says Johnson.

Bravo’s Soup & Sandwich Shoppe
Elk Grove, CA

Bravo’s Soup & Sandwich Shoppe, a nine-unit chain, recently created an annual farm to fork dinner entitled, “Sunday Supper at the Ranch.” This event serves as a fundraiser for two local charities: Project Ride, which is a therapeutic horseback riding club for handicapped children and adults, and the Write Stuff, a children’s literacy program. “This fundraiser generated more than $10,000 for the two charities and involved multiple service groups, such as Rotary Club and students from a nearby culinary school for meal prep,” says Bravo’s owner, Jim Brown. Additionally the company hosted eight different events at one of the restaurants including sports leagues, book runs, food and clothing drives, more than $3,000 in matching cash donations and “Paws for Sam,” a dine in program that raised funds to help a young boy with autism get his companion dog.

Buffalo Wild Wings/Franchisee Karim Webb
Los Angeles, CA

Buffalo Wild Wings’ franchisee, Karim Webb, is all about giving back to his community, which is located in the corridor where 1992 riots rocked Los Angeles. While showing double-digit growth two years running at his restaurant, Webb still finds time for others and is active in BLOOM, which stands for Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men. “Karim has been very involved in this work within the community and was represented as a franchise owner for the Buffalo Wild Wings brand,” says Andrew Block, senior vice president talent management services for Buffalo Wild Wings. Webb also serves on the board of Los Angeles South West College and sponsors Taste of Soul, a large community party that takes place in the summer. Additionally the restaurant also created a Thanksgiving Food Giveaway for families in need as well as a December Toy Drive in partnership with the LA Police Department.

El Pollo Loco
Costa Mesa, CA

El Pollo Loco established a nonprofit 501 (c) charity in an effort to support local communities served by the chain’s 175 restaurants. “Through this organization we were able to achieve our goal of providing more than 10,000 meals a year to help underprivileged families in the local communities,” says Lisa Groll, fixed asset analyst. During the company’s corporate quarterly meeting, El Pollo Loco conducts a silent auction, which generates donations from vendors and industry partners. “At each event that we cater we ask for volunteers from our corporate office to go and help serve the food and set up,” says Groll. “When we decide on an organization to provide food to, we pick the company store that is closest and store employees will put the order together and deliver and set up the food.”

Eric Kopelow
Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef
Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal City, CA

Through Universal Studios’ Discover a Star charitable arm, Chef Eric Kopelow is able to give back through an annual fundraiser where he cooks a 12-course dinner for up to 16 people at a private home. “Over the last ten years that I have been doing this we have generated more than $100,000,” says Kopelow. The proceeds are donated to local shelters and other community sponsored venues. Kopelow also uses his culinary talents to benefit Covenant House, which aids run away teens and children in need of a home. “Over the last ten years we have auctioned off more than 40 of these dinners,” he says. Additionally Kopelow and his colleagues at Universal Studios Hollywood do a myriad of other events that support Discover a Star, raising more than $5,000,000 during the last 10 years for a plethora of worthy causes.

Milano Restaurants International Corp.
Fresno, CA

Me-n-Ed’s Pizzerias, an institution in its home base of Fresno, CA, has been a constant figure in the communities it serves for more than 55 years. “From being one of the earliest sponsors of Little Leagues and Recreational Softball Leagues in the 1960’s, to promoting reading and education in the 2010’s, Me-n-Ed’s has been a strong proponent of health, education and activity for the youth and disadvantaged in Central California,” says partner Tom Ferdinandi. The 70-unit chain is involved in myriad programs including youth team sponsorships, city recreational league sponsorships, raffle ticket printing for non-profits, in-kind donations and monetary donations, event underwriting and concessionary pricing for schools, churches and other non-profits. Additionally Me-n-Ed’s serves as the sponsor of the Youth of the Year event, which benefits local Boys & Girls Clubs. “On a special night all the selected youth deliver their speeches, telling the stories of their lives and the obstacles they have overcome to achieve success in school and personally — telling those stories before a panel of judges, who then choose the Youth of the Year,” says Ferdinandi. 

Mulvaney’s B&L
Sacramento, CA

Mulvaney’s Building & Loan restaurant, which is well known for its Farm to Fork cuisine, is equally making a reputation as a business that values its community and whenever possible likes to pay-it-forward. The restaurant’s owners, Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney, joined forces with St. John Program for Real Change, which is a local women and children’s shelter, in June of 2010 as business mentors and founding partners in work force training program Plate’s Café and Catering. The owners as well as the restaurant’s 50 employees make time for training in the kitchen, creating program manuals, and lending their expertise. Additionally Mulvaney’s contributes $40,000 annually and actively participates in fundraising. “We provide the ability to rise above devastating, negative elements and achieve job-readiness and self-sustainability,” says Patrick Mulvaney. The owners are also committed to help eradicate childhood hunger. “Team B&L strongly believes that no child should worry about where their next meal is coming from,” says Patrick Mulvaney. To that end Mulvaney’s supports programs that provide services, education to children, adults and organizations to help end childhood hunger such as the Sacramento Food Bank. The restaurant also supports Sacramento High School Edible Garden and the James Beard Foundation.



Epicurean Group, Inc.
Centennial, CO

Each month the Epicurean Group’s food truck makes a stop at the Volunteers of America mission in downtown Denver. Chefs Bob Gitre and Keith Whitmyre plan and prepare a delicious meal for the homeless and serve it up alongside owner Larry DiPasquale. The meal is much the same as clients of the catering company can expect when putting on a private event. “At first they did not understand that the food truck was there for them and that the food was free,” says Paul Aylmer, chief financial officer. “Now they being queuing in line at 10 a.m. on the days the food truck is there. This helps the mission with providing healthier and nourishing meals to a greater number of people.” Moving forward DiPasquale hopes to expand the program beyond Epicurean to include other catering companies, restaurateurs and purveyors. “This service provides more than just a hot meal, it provides dignity and respect to all that need it,” says Aylmer.

The Kitchen
Boulder, CO

In 2011 the eight-unit chain that is dedicated to creating ”Community Through Food,” started its 501c3 nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community (TKC). “The Kitchen had been supporting traditional school garden programs, but were dissatisfied with the rate of adoption,” says Courtney Walsh, marketing/public relations director. “After researching the issue, The Kitchen’s co-founders created the Learning Garden concept.”

Learning Gardens are hands-on learning environments and experimental play-spaces built in schools and community settings that help to reverse trends in childhood obesity, improve academic performance and strengthen communities. “Today, Learning Gardens directly impact the lives of more than 100,000 children every day,” says Walsh. The chain, which donates several thousands of dollars every year to the project, also gets its employees into the act of giving back. “The Kitchen’s family of staff regularly volunteers at local Learning Garden builds and they are dedicated to helping spread the word about the nonprofit’s efforts to connect kids to real food,” says Walsh.



High 5 Hospitality, LLC dba Buffalo Wild Wings
Bear, DE

Throughout the year High 5 Hospitality hosts almost as many events as there are days in a year. All told, H5H donates more than $96,000 to community groups through these programs. “The Buffalo Wild Wings golf tournament, held annually in May to benefit the Newark Senior Center, has raised close to $40,000 since its inception in 2011,” says Alison MacKenzie, marketing manager. Twelve employees volunteer their time to set up, run registration and serve food during the tournament. In addition, close to 20 employees participate in the tournament. All of the food is donated by the company, which has eight franchise locations and H5H vendors and sponsors donate shirts, hats and products for the goodie bags. In addition to the golf tournament, H5H hosts the annual Buffalo Run 5k, which supports the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Newark. Held annually in October, this event features a 5k, family activities and a race After Party.


District of Columbia

Argonaut Tavern
Washington, DC

In an effort to support restaurant industry workers who suffer from addiction the owners of Argonaut Tavern, Scott and Shaaren Magnuson, offer a program called Restaurant Recovery. Restaurant Recovery is a project that provides comprehensive solutions to address addiction and its effects on restaurant employees and their families, as well as the industry at large. “Restaurant Recovery helps restaurant workers find and pay for drug and alcohol treatment, and helps loved ones get the assistance they need,” says Scott Magnuson. This issue hits close to home for Magnuson, who started working in the industry at the age of 14, and simultaneously began using drugs and alcohol. “After 20 years of abuse I decided I had had enough,” he says. Entering treatment was a scary proposition and cost him upwards of $20,000 to complete treatment. “I was lucky because I had good health insurance,” he says. Restaurant Recovery meetings are now held weekly at the restaurant and Magnuson is paying it forward, including footing the bill for his employees to seek treatment.

EatWell DC
Washington DC

Five years ago the five-unit EatWell DC chain launched its GiveWell initiative. “Unsatisfied with only giving limited donations and gift cards to countless organizations with no knowledge of their impact, we now host three ‘Dine Out’ night events each year in which up to 25 percent of the evening’s proceeds are donated to a worthy cause,” says partner Joshua Hahn. Since its inception GiveWell has donated more than $50,000 to such organizations as So Others Might Eat, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Myositis Association, DC Greens and the American Red Cross in their relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy and the Asian Tsunami of 2008. The restaurant also gives to Food & Friends, which supports those living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life challenging issues, and City Dogs Rescue, an organization that works to rescue dogs in overcrowded high-kill shelters. “In our three-year partnership with City Dogs, we have donated more than $15,000 to this incredible organization,” says Hahn.

Gus DiMillo
Partner, Passion Food Hospitality
Washington, DC

Gus DiMillo is well known for his tireless efforts on behalf of others in his adopted home of Washington DC. His personal commitment is particularly strong with organizations related to the foodservice industry. His philanthropy includes significant giving to Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that helps ease the sting of homelessness, Share Our Strength, and Food & Friends, a group that supports those living with HIV/AIDS and other challenging illnesses. “In the field of medicine and rehabilitation, he supports Washington’s Whitman-Walker Clinic and Wounded Warriors,” says a company spokesman. DiMillo also has a passion for animals and to that end he is a supporter of the Humane Society and a major backer of the Friends of the National Zoo. Through his company, Passion Food Hospitality, DiMillo has raised more than $300,000 for local facilities that provide medical care for young people. Additionally he sits on several civic organizations that promote a safe downtown and robust tourist activity. “Caring for his city from the built environment to the cultural atmosphere, to the health and well-being of its citizens and animal friends, Gus DiMillo is one of Washington’s most hardworking and generous advocates,” says a spokesman.



Gecko’s Grill & Pub
Sarasota, FL

Owned and operated by two lifelong friends and former tennis partners, Mike Quillen and Mike Gowan, Gecko’s Grill & Pub has been immersed in its Florida communities for more than 22 years. “Each year, our Gecko’s charitable giving program grows, with the compass still tilted in the direction of being good neighbors, dependable business partners, and restaurateurs who contribute to the well being of our community and to helping others,” says Anne Rollings, company spokesperson. For more than a decade, Gecko’s has participated as a business partner with schools in Sarasota and Manatee Counties to provide free meals for students. “This year alone, more than 15,000 elementary students received our Super Student award cards to encourage good grades, good citizenry, school attendance, or other exemplary performance,” says Rollings. Gecko’s contributed more than $90,000 of in kind donations to this cause but the giving doesn’t stop there. Other programs supported by the restaurant chain include Share Our Strength, Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, YMCA Youth Shelter, Operation Second Chance, which provides help to American combat veterans and Katelyn’s Kidneys, a fundraiser to help the sister of a longtime employee.

Jessi’s Family Restaurant Inc.
Pinellas Park, FL

Jessi’s Family Restaurant is very active in the Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce. The restaurant, under the direction of owner Jason Sulisufay, also participates and hosts events for Relay For Life, which is under the auspices of the American Cancer Society. Most recently Sulisufay found out one of his waitresses was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite the fact that she was part time and uninsured, Sulisufay came to her aid by helping her sign up for health insurance at a rate of $20 a month. He then created a bank account for her and has helped raise more than $5,000 to help pay her bills. “To date Tina has had four months of rent and living expenses paid and the restaurant is continuing to support her,” says a company spokesperson. 

Pizza Gallery & Grill
Viera, FL

Pizza Gallery & Grill has been a fixture in Brevard County, FL for 25 years. Since day one the restaurant, which employs 75 people, has been a sponsor of local youth sports leagues, community outreach events, park clean ups and the fight against breast cancer. “We encourage our guests to join our team in these projects so that we can build lasting relationships and promote giving not only from within our culture but throughout the local community,” says James Meagher, marketing director. “Our yearly Mother’s Day diaper drive is probably our most successful recurring project,” he says. Over the past three years the event has collected more than 15,000 diapers for mothers in need. “This donation stocks their shelves for months and provides diapers to hundreds of local families,” says Meagher.

Tijuana Flats
Altamonte Springs, FL

Since the inception of the partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 2007, The Tijuana Flats Just in Queso Foundation has donated more than $654,000 in the fight against breast cancer. For three weeks every October Tijuana Flats’ employees turn pink in an effort to go all out for the worthy cause. “Employees from 105 Tijuana Flats locations joined forces to participate in the movement to raise money for a cure. Throughout the 2014 campaign alone, 29,311 bottles of sauce were sold, 63,833 tacos were made pink for a donation of $1 and $29,529 was collected in monetary donations,” says Monique Yeager, vice president of marketing. Last year the employees took the fundraising efforts outside the four walls of the restaurants by conducting car washes and finding new venues to sell sauces. “The store that had the highest percentage of hot sauce sales was awarded $2,500 to donate to a local person or organization breast cancer related that has had an impact on them and touched their lives in some way,” says Yeager.

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Here To Serve Restaurants
Atlanta, GA

With 13 restaurants and nearly 500 employees, Here To Serve Restaurants do a lot of good in the communities served by the chain. Raising more than $1 million for a plethora of worthy causes, community outreach is important. “Being an Atlanta-based company we want to do our part in giving back to our city and its foundations,” says Meridith Ford, director of marketing. Some of the organizations that benefit from Here To Serve Restaurants include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Atlanta Humane Society, Rally Foundation, which supports childhood cancer research, Simon Youth Foundation, which fosters and improves educational opportunities, Make A Wish Foundation, Lupus Foundation of America, Free To Breathe, which supports lung cancer research and Camp Twin Lakes.

Norsan Group Restaurants
Duluth, GA

With a portfolio that includes 16 varied restaurants in the Atlanta and Charlotte, NC areas, the Norsan Group has a lot of constituents and communities to serve. Led by Norberto Sanchez since its founding in 1987, the art of helping thy neighbor is alive and well. “We like to consider ourselves as partners of the communities we serve, and that’s why we help them constantly,” says Adriana Quintanilla, who is head of the marketing department. A sampling of the organizations served includes Atlanta Community Food Bank, The Georgia Aquarium Conservation, schools, religious associations and the Girls and Boy Scouts of America. One of the group’s concepts — Frontera Mex-Mex Grill —holds fundraisers where a portion of sales benefits a local charity or association. ”We have had amazing responses with these fundraisers, so that in only one month and one particular location, three different fundraisers have taken place, and we are thrilled,” says Quintanilla.

Ray’s on the River
Atlanta, GA

For more than 15 years Ray’s on the River has partnered with Fragile Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides wheelchair lifts for home and vans, ramping, specialty seating, bathing equipment, therapy bikes and other necessities to the medically fragile children of Georgia. “Ray’s on the River hosts two annual events for Fragile Kids Foundation each year,” says Emily Robinson, client services manager. These special events include a golf tournament and breakfast with Santa. The breakfast with Santa is a time where families who benefit from the services of the Foundation come to the restaurant to enjoy brunch and a visit with Santa, all compliments of Ray’s on the River,” says Robinson. All the food for the event is donated and the staff is also on hand to serve the children and their families.

Sterling Spoon Culinary Management and Marlow’s Tavern
Atlanta, GA

For more than 16 years Marlow’s Tavern and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management have partnered with Special Olympics Georgia (SOGA). The restaurant and its parent hospitality management company host an annual golf tournament, which raised about $70,000 in 2014. In addition to the golf tournament, Marlow’s Tavern raises money for SOGA at the opening of each new location. “During each friends and family ‘sneak preview’ service, the restaurant asks for a donation to SOGA in lieu of paying for their meal,” says Emily Robinson, client services manager. “At the opening events at the two newest locations, $5.660 was raised in Buford and $8,095 was raised in Avalon,” says Robinson. Since the beginning of the partnership with SOGA the company has donated about $557,000 to support the program, which provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in 25 Olympic-type sports for almost 27,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Tin Lizzy’s Cantina
Atlanta, GA

Seven-unit Tin Lizzy’s Cantina pulled out all the stops to help raise funds to provide an all-expenses-paid, five-day journey to Walt Disney World for children with chronic and terminal illnesses. Through its partnership with Bert’s Big Adventure, the chain, which employs 550 people, raised more than $7,500 on National Taco Day by donating $1 to the cause for each taco sold. Additionally the chain donated more than $2,000 to help fund breast cancer research. Other partners of the Atlanta-based restaurant company include Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Sunshine on a Ranney Day, an organization that does room makeovers for children with long-term illnesses and Chattahoochee Rivereeper, an environmental advocacy organization.

Athens, GA

Zaxby’s, and its 225 units, has been partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation since 2011. “In just four short years, Zaxby’s has donated $1.5 million to help grant the wishes of 175 kids with life-threatening medical illnesses experience things they’d only dreamed of before,” says Erin Todd, brand manager.  Recently the company was able to help the child of two employees who are parents to a child diagnosed with Batten’s Disease at birth. Their daughter, Sophie requested a service dog. “Because Sophie’s parents are both team members at one of Zaxby’s Lexington, KY locations, being able to make her dreams come true was incredibly meaningful,” says Todd. Now the service dog, Browser, is Sophie’s constant companion. Moving forward Zaxby’s plans to do even more for Make-A-Wish. “Zaxby’s has committed to donate more in 2015 than any previous year — to ensure that 60 more kids’ biggest dreams come true,” says Todd. Additionally, Zaxby’s is a partner with APIVEO (Always Play 4 Each Other), an organization that celebrates young athletes who show leadership on and off the field. Each month the organization selects a young athlete to recognize, and Zaxby’s donates $1,000 to a children’s charity of the honoree’s choice.

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Da Kitchen Cafe
Kahului, HI

In 2012 Da Kitchen Restaurants started its Hunger RIP Campaign in partnership with the Hawaii Foodbank and Maui Food Bank to help raise money and awareness to combat the growing number of underfed and starving people in Hawaii. “Da Kitchen Restaurants helped raise money through the sale of T-shirts and hats,” says Mariah Brown, vice president. “A percentage of the proceeds from each retail item sold fed six people.” Through the campaign the two-unit restaurant company fed 6,000 people. “Da Kitchen managed the campaign, kept track of inventory and sales, met with the Food Banks to collaborate and more to ensure the success of the project,” says Brown. “Our staff wears the (Hunger RIP) logo shirt every Friday and we take photos with the customers and get them engaged.” 

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Trinity at City Beach
Sandpoint, ID

Trinity at City Beach’s owner, Justin Dick, is well entrenched in Sandpoint, the community his restaurant serves. “With more than 130 nonprofit organizations in a town with a population of just over 7,000 people, there are a lot of charitable needs but somehow Justin and Trinity at City Beach are involved with almost all of them as it is hard to choose just one specific project,” says Hayden Avery, general manager. Some of those organizations include the Historical Society and Museum, the Festival at Sandpoint, Panhandle Animal Shelter, the Pend Oreille Bay Trail, which is a new trail that hugs the lake, the Idaho Conservation League, Angels Over Sandpoint, a group that funds a variety of causes for people in need locally, a host of local schools’ activities and several sporting events. “Justin strongly believes in this community and helps with food donations, time donations, gift certificate donations and sponsoring different events,” says Avery.

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Pita House Restaurant
Schaumburg, IL

For the last three years Pita House Restaurant has donated $1,000 to the Schaumburg Mayor’s Community Scholarship Campaign as well as an ongoing sponsorship of The Children’s Advocacy Center, which is a healing place for abused children. Last year the two-unit Pita House donated more than $3,000 in food and money, including $1,000 for the Champions for the Children 5K walk. The restaurants also support such worthy causes as Emerald Village, which is a senior apartment community, local churches, school PTA’s, the Schaumburg Athletic Association as well as the Prairie Center for the Arts, who last year received a donation of about $1,500.


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Full Court Press, Inc.
Des Moines, Iowa

Full Court Press, Inc., a nine-unit restaurant company based in Des Moines, has made it a point to be a fixture in the communities where its units are located. Under the direction of owner Jeff Bruning, the company, which employs about 100 people, has donated time and meals to a variety of worthy causes. One of those causes is the Grace Free Medical Clinic and Meal program. “Jeff and Full Court Press donate roughly 50 meals more than 25 times per year,” says Katelyn Kostek, public relations specialist. “That adds up to about 1,300 meals per year. Each week 35 to 60 underprivileged people enjoy a hot meal and friendship.” Not only does Bruning get involved, but a large number of staff members do as well. “Each restaurant prepares their specialty dishes for the program and designated staff help to deliver the meals to feed the hungry and less fortunate in the greater Des Moines area,” says Kostek.

Mickey’s Irish Pub
Waukee, Iowa

Mickey’s Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa is located at the trailhead of one of central Iowa’s most popular bike trails. As such, they are often the first and last stop of many of the thousands of bicycle riders that pass through Waukee throughout the year. Mickey’s owners Amy and Andy Walsh have been vocal advocates of trail upkeep and expansion—not just because many cyclists frequent their business, but also because they are avid cyclists themselves.  To help support the expansion and upkeep of the trails, Mickey’s Irish Pub hosts several fundraisers each year.  They worked with sponsor New Belgium Beer and organized a “Glass that Gives” campaign where they donated a portion of New Belgium sales to the trails.  They raised $9,000—enough to pave 2 ½ trail crossings.  To help fund enhancements to the trailhead, they organized four “Glo Rides” in which bikers lit their bikes using glow sticks and other lights.  Riders pay $25 to participate on this night ride.  Last summer’s rides raised an additional $4,000 for local bike trails.   Plans are already underway for next year’s rides. 



Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 

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Monroe, LA

With his two acclaimed restaurants in northeast Louisiana — Chef Cory Bahr has made a name for himself — not only for his cooking but for his giving as well. In October of 2014 the city of Monroe was hit with a devastating tornado, which knocked out power to more than 50,000 people and heavily damaged homes and businesses. “Chef Cory and his employees saw the storm’s effects and immediately mobilized their efforts, even though Nonna was also without electricity,” says Erica Burns, director of communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “The storm really brought the community together and Chef Cory and his employees volunteered their time and over a 5-day period, served between 8,000 and 9,000 free meals to those in need.” The meals were served twice a day and no one was turned away. Additionally each Thanksgiving Chef Cory’s other restaurant, Cotton, shuts down so a Thanksgiving meal can be prepared for 300 people in need.

Phil’s Grill
Harahan, LA

Phil’s Grill has been active in its community since it first opened for business seven years ago, but also has a major focus on two events. “In May we have Burgerpalooza, a celebration of National Burger Month,” says owner Phillip de Gruy. “For the past six years we’ve adopted The Miracle League of Greater New Orleans as the benefactor.” To date Phil’s Grill, which has three restaurants, has raised close to $60,000 by creating a special burger and donating the proceeds. The company also hosts an annual Burger Bowl, which coincides with the NFL season. “We do different burgers weekly based on the New Orleans Saints opponents and I donate the proceeds to local charities,” says de Gruy. One of those donations includes $5,000 to a local high school to support its culinary program as well as other groups like Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, NOLA Goes Pink, which supports Susan G. Komen, The Miracle League, an organization which helps disabled youth engage in sports and The Steve Gleason Foundation, which aims to find a cure for ALS.

The Crazy Lobster
New Orleans, LA

For several years The Crazy Lobster has been helping Ozanam Inn, which is a local nonprofit that helps rehabilitate homeless residents so they can re-enter the workforce. The restaurant, which donates the space for an annual gala as well as 12 stations of food and all the labor, involves the majority of its 88 employees in the endeavor. Last year The Crazy Lobster donated about $15,000 for the cause, which raised almost $100,000 through the annual, festive event. “Also this year we purchased new chairs for the restaurant and we were able to donate all 350 of our old chairs to the facility,” says Anna Tusa, vice president. “They were able to outfit every room with a matching set of chairs.” Aside from the gala the restaurant also treats the Inn’s staff to a celebratory Christmas dinner. “We want to thank them for their hard work,” says Tusa.


Hermon, ME

For more than 16 years Dysart’s has been a vital partner to Pine Tree Camp, raising more than $100,000 for the 280-acre, 38-building summer camp designed specifically for children and adults living with physical and developmental disabilities. “In 2015 Pine Tree Society (the state agency that oversees the camp) will host the 42nd annual Dysart’s Snowmobile Ride-in for Pine Tree Camp,” says Tyler Cary, spokesperson for the Pine Tree Society. “This weekend-long event takes place in the Sebasticook Valley region of Central Maine, and features a gamut of community-supported events.” Those events include a community supper, live and silent auction, snowmobile stunt-show, Celebrity Snowmobile Ride-in and an ice-fishing demonstration. Mary Hartt, Dysart’s owner, has been a steadfast supporter of the camp as have been employees of the restaurant company, which has two locations. “Her strength lies in being able to rally supporters and bring everyone to the table,” says Cary. ”She genuinely enjoys the opportunity to give back to her local community.”


Ben Yehuda Café & Pizzeria
Silver Spring, MD

Ben Yehuda Café & Pizzeria makes it a weekly ritual to donate $100 in gift cards to local families in need so that they can have an evening out. “We want the families to be treated just like everybody else so they are not embarrassed by the charity,” says owner Joshua Katz. The restaurant is kosher and the majority of its patrons are Jewish so some of the fundraising efforts raise money to support related causes. “We have raised money in support for families in Israel,” says Katz. To that end the restaurant, which has 25 employees, donated 10 percent of sales one day in August to raise money for a local federation to send emergency relief to those negatively affected by the past struggles in Israel and collected additional funds to support the Israeli Defense Force, according to Katz.

Black Restaurant Group
Bethesda, MD

The Black Restaurant Group, which has five restaurants and a bar in the metro Washington, DC area, is known for its seafood as well as supporting the communities in the areas it serves. “In 2011 the Black’s Family Foundation was created with a mission of actively giving to local communities so as to empower organizations and charities to do extraordinary things,” says publicist Charissa Benjamin. The company is owned by chefs Barbara and Jeff Black, who sponsor an annual golf tourney with $30,000 in proceeds benefitting a different organization each year. The event, Kitchen to the Pin, has raised funds for such groups as the Washington Youth Garden and Nourish Now, an organization that works to alleviate food insecurity in Montgomery County, MD. Additionally the company donates about $50,000 in cash and $15,000 in in-kind donations annually. These funds support such groups as Children’s National Medical Center, Food & Friends, Human Rights Campaign, DC Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, Miriam’s Kitchen and the Capital Area Food Bank.

Galway Bay/Irish Restaurant Company
Annapolis, MD

The Irish Restaurant Company has eight core principles that guide its culture — with the first being: “I make a difference; to the lives of my guests, IRC colleagues, suppliers and my planet. I am always looking for a way to better the lives of the people around me.” To that end the restaurant and its 35 employees sponsor a fundraiser dinner program on selected nights where $10 from each meal goes directly to the sponsor of the charity. Since 2003 more than $103,000 has been donated. Also for the last five years 100 meals per month have been donated to the Lighthouse Homeless Shelter, as well as giving away restaurant gift certificates to a host of charitable groups for use as prizes. Since 2006 the restaurant has also donated $79,000 in support of building wells for clean water in Malawi, Africa. The restaurant also supports a matching grant program for its employee’s charitable projects. “In 2014 matching grants were given for the 2014 Ride to Conquer Cancer, Global Habitat for Humanity, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that aids children with cancer, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” says Clare Mardall, executive assistant.

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Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 

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Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Glacier Restaurant Group
Whitefish, MT

Glacier Restaurant Group has a strong alliance with Special Olympics Montana that has been ongoing for the last four years. “A program called Tip-a-Cop was created in which local law enforcement heroes team up with Special Olympics athletes in our restaurants and act as guest/celebrity servers,” says Ryan Fuller, director of operations for the 26-unit restaurant group. All tips received are then donated back to the organization. And the program has been gaining momentum as evidenced by the growing donations — what started with $2,000 the first year has escalated to $20,000 in year four. “Special Olympics Montana is a movement that utilizes sports and health to help more than 2,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities to train for life,” says Fuller. “Our partnership is helping with those exact needs.”


Name: Cappy’s Hotspot bar-grill-catering

City, State: Lincoln, NE

Cappy’s Hotspot bar-grill-catering raises almost $30,000 annually for organizations in its trading area that make a difference in the lives of the Lincoln, NE community. Some of the long-term partnerships include the Nebraska Special Olympics program, as well as local and national cancer organizations. Cappy’s hosted one annual fundraiser this year that raised almost $17,000. “We also hosted the Rough Riders annual charitable fundraiser that raised more than $12,000 and was split equally to several local families in need,” says John Caporale, general manager. Staff members also get into the giving mode. “Most of the fundraisers that we hold at Cappy’s are donated time and or tips from the Cappy’s staff members,” says Caporale.

Lincoln, NE

For the last decade Dish has served its community, not only through its award-winning cuisine but through its good works as well. Two large chef dinners and live auctions are held each year to benefit the March of Dimes and Junior League of Lincoln. “The nights include a banquet for more than 200 people, then we offer an auction prize of dinner for eight prepared by me and served at their house or at the restaurant,” says chef/owner Travis Green. Additionally Green participated in a fundraising dinner for a local farmer injured in a car accident. “The event was named, ‘CSA,’ chefs supporting agriculture,” says Green. “We raised about $10,000 that night by doing a dinner for 125 people and having a raffle.”

Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill
 Lincoln, NE

Each year sister restaurants Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill and FireWorks Restaurant raise more than $30,000 to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and that number is edging ever closer to $40,000. The cause hits close to home, as the children of one of the founders have juvenile diabetes. Additionally the four restaurants support more than 300 charities, both large and small. “The focus is on schools and churches within a five mile radius of each restaurant,” says Wayne Boles, community relations. “No requests for auction items and raffle prizes for medical organizations’ fundraisers are turned away,” says Boles. Additionally the restaurants donate almost $3,000 annually to the local food bank.

Liberty Tavern
Omaha, NE

Four times a year Liberty Tavern menus a Liberty Love Menu, which benefits a different local charity each time. “This is our first year and we raised more than $1,000, with a goal of $5,000 for 2015,” says executive chef Chip Hawkins. Also the chef de cuisine, Kimbler Harrold, mentors a ProStart team each year, with one of his teams making it to the state finals. “Every year our organization provides volunteer work at the Food Bank, and we provide one day a month and all major holiday meals for The Ronald McDonald House,” says Hawkins. The restaurant, which employs 60 people, also gives a tour of the restaurant and discusses what it’s like to work in the restaurant industry with an at-risk student association, Avenue Scholars.

Runza National
Lincoln, NE

Runza Restaurants, which is celebrating its 65th year in business, has partnered with the TeamMates Mentoring Program since 2009. “TeamMates’ mission is to positively impact the world by inspiring youth to reach their full potential through mentoring,” says Becky Perrett, director of marketing for the 80-unit chain. Founded in 1991 by former Nebraska Cornhusker Football Coach Dr. Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy, TeamMates has grown to 7,000 matches in 128 chapters primarily across Nebraska and Iowa. Since the partnership was forged more than $101,000 has been raised. “In the five years of working with TeamMates, Runza has achieved record contributions thanks to the partnerships established with the local chapters as well as our loyal customers and media partners,” says Perrett.


Origin India Restaurant & Bar
Las Vegas, NV

Throughout the year Origin India Restaurant participates in a number of fundraisers and events. “Origin India has continuously donated gift certificates to its restaurant for all of the events where proceeds benefit the Nevada Restaurant Association Educational Foundation,” says owner Raja Majid. There are several such events each year and Origin India donates $100 every time. “The company has also offered their venue, services and food and beverage free of charge for events and meetings for attendees of up to 100,” says Majid. Additionally the company’s chefs have taken time to attend teacher workshops and do food demos for instructors to take back to their students. Also, Origin India often hosts political fundraisers for candidates that support the local community.

New Hampshire

The Common Man
Ashland, NH

With a long legacy of giving back to the communities it serves, The Common Man and its 16 restaurants is well known in New Hampshire for doing good. Over the last two years the 16-unit restaurant company has actively engaged in the innovative Rafting for Wishes event, which benefits Make-A-Wish of New Hampshire. “This is the second year The Common Man STARS (employees of the company) have formed a relay team in which they man a raft floating on Lake Winnipesaukee for two or more hours at a time, regardless of the weather, for 44 hours straight,” says Erica Murphy, director of communications and community relations. To become eligible each STAR had to raise $300 on their own, using online tools and other creative methods. “We also created a Wish Dish, in which a portion of the proceeds of each Wish Dish ordered went to the event and we sold Make-A-Wish paper stars at all three of our diners for $1 each to help raise awareness and funds,” says Murphy. In the end the company raised a total of $7,310 for the organization.

New Jersey

Doherty Enterprises, Inc.
Allendale, NJ

Doherty Enterprises, a chain of more than one hundred units, is committed to supporting its community and its own employees.  In 2007, Doherty Enterprises established the WOW A Friend Foundation, raising funds for employees in times of unexpected need.  By the end of 2012 the Foundation’s funds totaled $500,000.  Doherty Enterprises also gives back locally by participating in more than 700 community events annually, donating $116,000 and helping to raise approximately $1.7 million.   “We realize that if not for our guests and those who live in our communities, Doherty Enterprises would not be where we are today,” says founder, chairman, and CEO, Ed Doherty.  In total, Doherty Enterprises has helped raise a total of $3.7 million in fundraising and in-kind support for non-profits and organizations and donated $3.2 million to their communities. 

New Mexico

Edu@Work Cafe
Taos, NM

The Edu@Work Café is a student driven business at Taos High School. “The THS culinary program began 10 years ago with the assistance of the University of Mexico and the community to train students as employees with experience for the 20 plus area restaurants, and to prepare students for post-secondary education, with the emphasis on the industry,” says Mary Spears, instructor. Four years ago an on-site café opened, where students gain real experience and hands on instruction. During the last two summers students were paid employees of the café. The school also works with The Great Chefs of Taos to aid students in their quest for knowledge and employment. “The Great Chefs of Taos, a non-profit organization of local establishment chefs, offers mentoring, employment and financial opportunities for students,” says Spears. The program, which has more than 100 students each year, also participates in ProStart and SkillsUSA.

New York

Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 

North Carolina

Apple Gold Group
Raleigh, NC

In an ongoing partnership that has lasted eight years and raised more than $1 million, Apple Gold Group and The V Foundation for Cancer Research are dedicated in the fight against cancer. “In 2014, AGG continued their annual fundraiser for the charity, raising just over $150,000 but also wanted to take their efforts to the next level for The V Foundation,” says Taylor Meadows, account executive. To that end the 132-unit restaurant group hosted a kids triathlon — Applebee’s Kids Helping Kids Triathlon. “The idea was to invite children throughout the community to participate in a day of fun, promote a healthy lifestyle and join in the fight against cancer,” says Meadows. The event featured more than 200 boys and girls ages 7 through 12. “The fundraiser was filled with amazing stories, like the one from Lucas Deming, who raised nearly $1,000 for The V Foundation,” says Meadows. “When asked why he was raising money he said. ‘I know people in my family and throughout my school that have been affected by cancer. I would like to do my part to help these people.”

Jan-Marie Merrill
Durham, NC

Jan-Marie Merrill, 37, has been battling cancer since she was a teenager. Having lived with a rare form of metastatic cancer since she was 20, Merrill has endured rigorous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation but finds real support and comfort through her work as a Hooters Girl in Merritt Island, FL. “For the third consecutive year, Merrill hosted a ‘pink’ party at the Hooters of Merritt Island as part of Hooters month-long fundraising effort to raise money for breast cancer research,” says a public relations representative. Funds raised benefited The V Foundation for Cancer Research. As a side note, in January 2015, Merrill got married and in lieu of wedding gifts she asked that donations be made to the Kelly Jo Dowd Breast Cancer Research Fund.

LM Restaurants
Raleigh, NC

LM Restaurants is deeply committed to the communities it serves. With 14 units, the company covers a lot of ground, helping thousands of people through its initiatives. There is a concerted effort to partner with schools and non-profits as well as veteran groups. Some of the established programs include Dine & Donate, where a portion of food sales on a particular day benefit a worthy cause, and Play it Forward, a program that works with local schools to raise funds for booster clubs. Additionally the Carolina Ale House restaurants participate in CAH-U, which is a program where units host alumni watch groups for college games and a portion of sales are donated to a charity of the group’s choice. In 2014 Carolina Ale House also participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which benefited a sick child and also sponsored a Y Learning program at an elementary school and raised more than $8,000 for the Military Order of the Purple Heart on Veteran’s Day. 


Ciao Ristorante
Sylvania, OH

Ciao! Ristorante is part of Michael Gibbons’ Mainstreet Ventures and very well known for its involvement in the Sylvania, OH community. A variety of creative events are part of the restaurant’s culture and include University of Toledo Celebrity Wait Night, which raised more than $8,200, as well as Taste of NFL, a dine and donate program with Heidelberg Distributing and Gallo Wineries. “The program assists Family House Homeless Shelter to ‘kick hunger,’” says Terry Kretz, general manager. The event was able to raise enough money to fund 3,000 meals for the organization. Ciao! also participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and holds Lourdes Night at Ciao!, an event where 100 percent of gratuities benefit Lourdes College scholarships and Cherry Street Mission Thanksgiving Dinner, an event that benefits the largest shelter for homeless in northwest Ohio.

Real Seafood Company
Toledo, OH

Real Seafood Company is actively engaged in a variety of worthy causes in the community with one notable standout being its Knight of the Vine event to benefit St. Francis de Sales High School Endowment Fund. The program helps students with scholarships and other financial assistance. The event was created in 2007 by Michael Gibbons, president of Ann Arbor’s Mainstreet Ventures, which owns Real Seafood Company, and a Toledo resident. “Instead of just giving a donation, I felt we could create a truly unique annual event for the Toledo area that would raise significant funds for St. Francis,” says Gibbons. The event raises $250,000 for the college preparatory high school for young men. Other events put on by the restaurant each year include Cherry Street Mission Thanksgiving Dinner, and several Celebrity Wait Nights that benefit such groups as Christ Child Society, Lourdes College, Bethany House, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis, and Central City Ministries.


Old Germany Restaurant
Choctaw, OK

Old Germany Restaurant is a fixture in the Choctaw community and has been for 25 years. Some 34 employees spend hundreds of hours annually participating in a series of events and fundraisers that benefit the Choctaw School Foundation, Jones Fire Department, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, American Heart Association, Oklahoma City Art Museum, area Rotary Clubs and the Oklahoma Science Museum. As owner Mike Turek puts it, “It is not just one project, we spread the wealth to many great causes.”


Beau Delicious International, LLC dba Café Yumm!
Eugene, OR

Café Yumm!, which has three company-owned locations, is a restaurant company dedicated to its philosophy of following the Triple Bottom Line in balancing social, economic and environmental factors. The company has won numerous awards not only for its food but also for its environmental practices. Each year Café Yumm! donates time and money to nonprofit organizations that share its vision of nurturing whole foods, active and healthy lifestyles and environmental responsibility. Some of the groups that the restaurant company works with include Food for Lane County, a local food bank as well as The Science Factory Children’s Museum & Exploration Dome where Café Yumm! sponsored the Eat Well, Play Well exhibit. The Eugene-Or based company also donates to 40 public schools. “Total education donations since 2008 have exceeded $60,000,” says Edward Gerdes, vice president/general counsel. “These donations have positively affected thousands of children and helped educate them about the importance of nutrition, active lifestyles and health,” he says.

Name: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Bandon, OR

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s owner, Mike Keiser, is thoroughly committed to the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, an organization he founded. “Founder Mike Keiser’s vision of creating Bandon Preserve as a golf course with a mission is in full swing and is serving as an important catalyst for action along the Wild Rivers coastline where WRCA is operating,” says executive director of the WRCA, Jim Seeley. The organization advances conservation, strengthens communities and bolsters the local economy through grants. “Or grantees are working on a range of creative initiatives, from community stakeholder meetings about local food and tourism to restoration work in riparian areas,” says Seeley. The organization seeks to make the land and waters healthy, promote tourism and support job growth. “Initial grants from the organization have helped restore critical habitat, support local entrepreneurs and conduct cutting edge research on the intersection of conservation and economy,” says Seeley. The grants are funded through net proceeds from the golf course operations.

Cattlemen’s Saloon
Rogue River, OR

One of the organizations that Cattlemen’s Saloon pulls out all the stops for is The Rogue River Christmas Project Partnership, which benefits The Rogue River Community Center. “Cattlemen’s facilitates a Christmas tree auction every year and aggressively campaigns for food, toys and Christmas tree donations,” says manager Jinny Neiswanger. “We auction off themed Christmas trees decorated by friends and neighbors of the Cattlemen’s Saloon.” For its part the Veterans of Foreign Wars USA (VFW) lets the organization use its hall for the Christmas dinner and party. All the money raised goes to food and gifts for local families who are struggling during the holidays. Other organizations supported by Cattlemen’s Saloon include Bree’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation, ROC (Rogue Outreach Center) as well as a host of local folks as the needs arise. “The Cattlemen’s Saloon is proud to assist our small community of just over 2,000 people whenever we can, or are called upon,” says Neiswanger.

Name: Po’Shines
Portland, OR

Po’Shines is on a mission to help local youth and young adults who don’t quite fit in. “Providing job training and family support to at-risk individuals who struggle with school, the law, and general social acceptance — Po’Shines has helped raise and launch many youth in our community who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks and ended up behind bars,” says manager Mackenzie Doyle. On average the soul food restaurant helps about 20 people a year. One of the first kids to come through Po’Shines was Garett, who had a lot of trouble in school and a short fuse to boot. “Our chef saw himself in Garett and took him under his wing,” says Doyle. “Over the years Garett began showing pride in himself and our staff began working with him to get his GED.” Today Garett is a lead line cook at a fine dining restaurant in downtown Portland and is still involved in the work Po’Shines does. In addition the restaurant provides several large free community dinners. Overall Po’Shines estimates it donates almost 5,000 meals annually.


Auntie Anne’s, Inc.
Lancaster, PA

Auntie Anne’s has had an ongoing partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) since September 2011, raising almost $2 million through its in-store national fundraising campaigns, coin canister donations and local pretzel rolling contests. The company also sponsors the Auntie Anne’s C.A.R.E.S. Charity Golf Tournament each year to support the cause, an organization that helps fund childhood cancer research. “In July 2014, Auntie Anne’s launched its third annual charitable campaign to benefit ALSF,” says Kaitlin Nonnenmocher, public relations and social media specialist. “With the tagline of ‘fight with all your might against childhood cancer,’ the eight-week campaign encouraged guests to join in the fight by visiting their local store to purchase a $1 pretzel ribbon icon,” says Nonnenmocher. In appreciation of the donation, Auntie Anne’s provided a coupon for $1 off their next purchase of any pretzel product and drink. The fundraiser raised almost $508,000, which is estimated to be the equivalent of funding for more than 10,000 hours of childhood cancer research.

Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar
Harrisburg, PA

Nine-unit Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar features a dine and donate charitable event program where 15 percent of total sales are donated to the organization. Started about four years ago the events are held about three to five times each week. To date, Arooga’s has donated nearly $100,000 to a variety of worthy local causes including school booster clubs, town athletics and a host of non-profits. “In early 2014, we partnered with the Hershey Bears and ‘Running for Rachel’ for a one night charity event in five of our locations and raised $5,000 in one evening,” says Tanya Scannelli, catering and promotions manager. “Most recently, we hosted a month-long joint venture with Wilsbach Distributors, Inc., and Ace Distributing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month where a portion of sales for ‘Woodchuck Pink’ were donated to the Feel Your Boobies Foundation, whose mission is to raise breast cancer awareness and early detection,” says Scannelli. The company also donated 2,000 wings to the St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen in Harrisburg after it was vandalized.

Irish Pub
Philadelphia, PA

Five years ago the Irish Pub, which is a previous national Restaurant Neighbor Award winner, launched Gathering of Heroes. This guest ”celebrity” bartending event raises money for families of soldiers who were killed in action or severely injured while on duty. “Our main celebrities who attend are Medal of Honor recipients,” says owner Mark O’Connor. O’Connor says it is difficult to get a Medal of Honor recipient to attend because they travel extensively supporting various military causes across the United States. “However, every year we always have at least three recipients, if not more,” says O’Connor. “Being able to come to a neighborhood bar and meet these heroes and have a conversation with them is a huge draw for our event and something unique.” Last year the event raised $50,000 for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. The event is put on and planned by Irish Pub employees, who also help get the word out with fliers and word of mouth.

Name: Punxsy Pizza
Punxsutawney, PA

Punxsy Pizza’s owner, Scott Anthony, created a community event to benefit the town’s fire department and has provided almost 4,000 smoke detectors to the community since its inception 13 years ago. Last year the restaurant sold 4,430 pizzas and raised more than $43,000. Since it started the program has raised more than $370,000 in an effort to keep the community safe. “The Punxsutawney Fire Department makes, cooks, delivers pizza and then checks and replaces batteries as well as hands out smoke detectors to those in need,” says Scott Depp, Punxsutawney’s fire chief. In addition the restaurant raises funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Punxsutawney Community Center, AJ Parise Football, and Boy Scouts of America.

Name: The Rose Group
Newtown, PA

Operating 56 Applebee’s and eight Corner Bakery Cafes, The Rose Group, has put down stakes in several communities in its four-state territory. With a long standing commitment to support those communities the restaurant group, which has more than 5,000 employees, has donated almost $1.5 million over the last six years. “We organize Flapjack Fundraisers in our Applebee’s restaurants,” says Cathi Chuck, vice president marketing and public relations. “They are a popular fundraising option where we partner with local charity groups to host a breakfast. The group is responsible for promoting and selling tickets to the breakfast and providing volunteers to work the breakfast. Our responsibilities include providing the restaurant and food. We charge $2.50 per person for unlimited pancakes, sausage, orange juice, and coffee or fountain sodas,” she says. The $2.50 charge covers the cost of food and labor and the organization can set their own price for the event, which determines the profit margin. The program has been very successful and is in high demand. In one year alone more than 2,300 Flapjack Fundraisers have been booked.

The Supper Club at the Greensburg Train Station
Greensburg, PA

For the past two years The Supper Club, which features farm to table fare, has hosted a Local Food Bash with more than 100 people in attendance. The evening features the best in local food and showcases products from western Pennsylvania, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Arias M. BrownBack Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship provides funding for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and helps pay for educational opportunities for those who want to learn about sustainable agriculture techniques and methods, regardless of their financial circumstances. “The memorial fund is intended to help young Pennsylvania state farmers attend the Farming for the Future Conference,” says Deb Driggers, operations manager. Over the course of the last two years more than $2,000 has been raised at the event, which also raises awareness about the importance of buying local.

Rhode Island

Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant
Newport, RI

Brick Alley works with several local organizations each year, but one of its main community service programs is the Mary Gomes Memorial Foundation. The organization is named after one of the restaurant’s most beloved employees, who was without health insurance when she became ill. “In an effort to help, the Brick Alley family designed and created The Mary Gomes Foundation to help Mary with the overwhelming task of keeping up with her mounting medical bills,” says Rory Hennessey, culture curator. The owners of the restaurant donated every penny earned on the first event, “Mary Day.” The kitchen staff also donated their pay, and the front-of the-house employees donated all tips. The Foundation also organized a golf tournament to help in the cause, but in the end Mary Gomes lost her battle with cancer. In an effort to honor her memory the Mary Gomes Memorial Foundation is still operating, and is run 100 percent by volunteers, many of who work at the restaurant. “Brick Alley continues to host the golf tournament every September to raise money in an effort to support local community members who are in need of financial assistance,” says Hennessey. Additionally the restaurant donates hundreds of pounds of food to the Newport MLK Center through its annual Christmas drive, and also organizes a yearly ‘Keep Newport Clean’ community service day.

Gregg’s Restaurants & Pubs
East Greenwich, RI

Gregg’s has been a fixture in the communities it serves for 42 years, and for the last 20 of those years has been actively involved in Gregg’s Giving Tree. Each year the company’s four restaurants put up a Christmas tree with the name of a local person who is need on a tag that adorns the tree. “As they are removed by generous folks, new tags are added,” says owner Robert Bacon. “If any tags remain, Gregg’s purchases the gifts listed so that no person in need goes without,” says Bacon. “Just before the holidays, the gifts are attended to by an army of more than 200 Gregg’s volunteers who inspect, wrap and tag each gift with the recipient’s name.” On average each person receives five gifts including clothing, toiletries, toys, books and games. In 2013 the company’s staff, which numbers about 425 people, wrapped more than 23,000 gifts over a four-day period. “While most of the non-profits pick up their gifts, there is one delivery that means the world to our staff,” says Bacon. “Each year, we arrive at Bishop McVinney Elementary School with a moving truck filled with gifts. One of our long-time volunteers dresses up like Santa, and we go into the school to surprise the kids with a special visit.”

South Carolina

Carl Sobocinski
Table 301 Restaurant Group
Greenville, SC

Carl Sobocinski has single-handedly helped to redefine the Greenville, SC restaurant scene. He went door to door to get enough registered voter’s signatures to allow Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants. He convinced eight local farmers to sell their goods downtown on Saturdays. “When wine distributors refused Greenville restaurants their best offerings, Carl went directly to the wineries to get the top-rated wines,” says a spokesman. Nine years ago Sobocinski started the area’s first non-profit food, wine and music festival, Euphoria, which has attracted chefs from all over the country. He also led a committee to request marketing dollars to create a brand identity for Greenville that netted $300,000 for the cause. “On top of all that, Table 301 donates more than $75,000 in cash and $75,000 in in-kind annually to more than 80 area non-profits,” says the spokesman.

South Dakota

Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Huey’s Restaurant
Memphis, TN

Huey’s engages customers in its efforts to give back through a “Frill Pick” contest at all of its units. Guests can donate $1 to guess how many toothpicks are on the ceiling and the money raised is then donated to the Memphis Zoo and the Palmer Home, a Christian organization that helps children in need. “This past year we donated approximately $10,700 from our Frill Pick contest, and overall we have donated around $71,000,” says Shannon Little, marketing and events coordinator. The company's founder, Thomas Boggs, was formerly the president of the Memphis Zoo for several years, and as a result Huey’s has been involved with the organization since the 1980s. The staff of the eight restaurants are responsible for selling the guesses. “We in turn reward our top-selling servers with either gift cards or money,” says Little. Additionally the company, which employs 450 people, allows St. Jude Children’s Hospital patients and guardians, police officers, and firemen half-price meals at all of the units. Military personnel also enjoy a 50 percent reduction on their bills each Veteran’s Day. Other organizations supported by Huey’s include Boy Scouts of America, Susan G. Komen, Overton Park Conservancy, Playhouse on the Square and Christian Brothers University, among others.

JHS Holdings LLC
Nashville, TN

JHS Holdings, which originated during the market crash of 2008, came to the rescue of five restaurants during that time period due to non-payment of debt to GE Franchise Finance. ”Rather than watch that ownership group destroy these restaurants and put 200 people in the unemployment line, we decided to contact GE and work out a settlement to the debt and proceed with a management led takeover,” says Paul Schramkowski, partner. Since then the business has grown and more than 250 new jobs have been created. Hooking up with the Taste of the NFL, JHS became the official restaurant of the Tennessee Titans. “This is our third year at the event and we have worked very hard to raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank,” says Schramkowski. Last year the restaurant company donated almost $11,000 to the cause. “We made this by donating $1 for each order of our famous roasted cauliflower appetizer to the charity. Needless to say, we sold a great deal of cauliflower,” he says. Other organizations supported by JHS include Boy Scouts of America and a host of local schools and charitable groups. 


San Antonio, TX

As a recent cancer survivor Cured’s owner, Steve McHugh, has been profoundly influenced by the charitable organizations that helped in his recovery. Now a vibrant food destination for San Antonio residents, Cured serves as the anchor for the neighborhood in more ways than one. “McHugh and his staff of 60 contribute significant hours and in-kind resources to local events, from cooking demonstrations at the local high school, to participating in the local Boys and Girls Club Burger Cook-Off, to raising money with Culinaria for chefs in need locally in San Antonio, to donating time and product to the Sustainable Food Center in Austin,” says a restaurant spokesman. The signature giving program at Cured is linked to the restaurant’s charcuterie board — for each one ordered Cured donates $1 to a single charity of its choice, one each quarter of the year. Some of the group’s supported by Cured include The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, Team Gleason for AlS support, and Susan G Komen.

Fish City Grill
Addison, TX

In an effort to help local non-profit organizations, Fish City Grill launched First Tuesday. “The first Tuesday of each month the stores highlight a different local charity and encourage guest and supporters of that organization to dine with them that day,” says public relations representative, Christy Morris. “A portion of the day’s sales is then directly donated to the charity.” In 13 years the program has donated more than $275,000 to various local charities across the country. The restaurant company, which now numbers 18 units in four states, raised those funds with just six units open. To be considered a local organization need only complete an application that is available on the company’s website and return it to the nearest unit. Staff members also take the day seriously and go out of their way to engage the guests that participate. “The level of enthusiasm the staff brings to the table can truly have an impact on the success of the event,” says Morris. “For example, when a recent location supported a breast cancer charity, the staff dressed up in pink attire and even decorated the restaurant with pink balloons and streamers.” Another worthy cause supported by the restaurant is the Dallas Area Parkinsonism Society (DAPS), which has been an ongoing partnership for several years.

Papouli’s Greek Grill
San Antonio, TX

With five units in the San Antonio and Austin areas, Papouli’s Greek Grill does a lot to help local organizations in the communities it serves, but the company and its owners take a particular interest in two organizations. Owners Nick and Amber Anthony go all out for the Alzheimer’s Association of South Texas as well as the City of San Antonio and its Por Vida program, which helps support an Eat Fit to Live lifestyle. “Nick and Amber Anthony volunteer their time to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as created an annual 5K walk and race to raise money for the same cause,” says a company spokesman. Amber Anthony is also the chair for the San Antonio Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Snappy Salads
Dallas, TX

Snappy Salads serves up a lot of good will through its eight units in the Dallas area. Through silent auctions and other means the company donated more than $10,000 last year back into the community. “Every year we support the local Days of Taste week that is held in the spring and fall,” says Chris Dahlander, founder and chief executive. “It helps educate inner city youth on healthy eating.” The chain also participates in electronic waste recycling twice a year. “We collect old electronic items at no charge and properly recycle them using e-steward standards,” says Dahlander. “This year we diverted more than 28,000 pounds of electronic waste from our landfills.” Snappy Salads also conducts a CFL and battery-recycling program, which helps keep toxic chemicals out of landfills.

Steve McHugh
San Antonio, TX

Despite only owning his restaurant, Cured, for about a year, Steve McHugh, has made quite an impression with his philanthropic endeavors in the San Antonio community. He has personally spent more than 170 hours working for charitable causes that are near and dear to his heart. As a result, his restaurant donated more than $13,000 in its first nine months to such groups as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “He has been deeply involved with LLS since battling cancer several years ago — and this is his way of giving back to an organization that made a profound impression on him,” says a restaurant spokesman. Other beneficiaries of his efforts include the local high school, local Boys and Girls Club of America chapter, March of Dimes, Susan G, Komen, Share Our Strength, and Team Gleason for ALS support. “One of the driving philosophies of his restaurant, Cured, is appreciation for and celebration of life, so Steve McHugh has implemented a system of ‘gastronomic giving,’ by donating $1 from every charcuterie board ordered to a different charitable organization every three months,” says the spokesman.

ThunderCloud Subs
Austin, TX

ThunderCloud, through its 24-year history in the Austin community, has built up a solid reputation for engaging its customers and staff to give back. Since its founding in 1975 the company has been a major sponsor of local organizations dedicated to creating a better community. “Their signature event is the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot, the largest five-mile run in Texas, with more than 22,000 people from 49 states participating on Thanksgiving Day,” says Wendy Saari of the Texas Restaurant Association. Since its inception in 1991 the annual event has raised more than $2.5 million for Caritas of Austin, an organization that fights homelessness. Last year’s event raised $325,000. “The ThunderCloud Subs team devotes many hours throughout the year to the event and it’s a full-time job for five people in the two weeks before Thanksgiving,” says Saari. The company, which has 29 units and more than 300 employees, also supports HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians), Hill Country Conservancy, Texas Land Conservancy, Austin Parks Foundation, Clean Water Fund, and Friends of Barton Springs Pool.

West End Pizza Company
Fredericksburg, TX

For the last two years West End Pizza Company has hosted a fundraiser in support of a local ministry, Wounded Warriors at Nebo. The two annual events have raised a total of $6,800 that is used in support of soldiers who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “The owners, Janet and Hal Degenhardt received tremendous support through 1st Lt. Hal Degenhardt’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in the last five years,” says a restaurant spokesman. More than 150 guests are served at the fundraiser with the restaurant donating advertising, printing, pizza buffets through donations, as well as collecting raffle items from the community and selling specially designed T-shirts. 


Utah Del
Salt Lake City, UT

Since 2008 under the direction of Paul Hitzelberger, owner and operator of 26 Del Taco units, the company has been a strong supporter of the National Ability Center. The organization provides more than 17,000 recreational experiences each year and serves more than 2,500 people with disabilities. With the support of Del Taco, and the $150,000 raised, the NAC also expanded into reaching more of our veterans in partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project. “We believe in everything the NAC is doing and what the organization stands for,” says Hitzelberger. “Giving people the chance to find their strengths and be active despite a physical challenge is a rewarding experience for so many, particularly kids and our honored veterans.” One veteran, who suffered from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) expressed his gratitude this way: “The NAC is the reason my family is still together. My life could have taken a much different course. Too many friends I served with have turned to substance abuse, violence and even suicide as a result of PTSD.”


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Village Square Restaurant
Winchester, VA

Village Square Restaurant, and its two units, has been a big supporter of the Winchester schools with hundreds of gift certificates ever since the first restaurant opened, more than 13 years ago. Another cause that has sparked a call to action for Village Square is an annual fundraiser for the Valley Health Wellspring Cancer Center. The two restaurants over the last decade have raised more than $150,000 in support of the center through its annual “Celebration of Hope,” gala dinner. The restaurant’s executive chef, Dan Kalber, lost his grandfather to pancreatic cancer and has been a catalyst for Village Square’s support of Valley Health.

“We have made it our policy that anyone who donates their time to fundraise for the benefit of the overall community will find a welcome in our restaurant when they come through the door,” says Joerg Eichmann, owner. 


Randy Thurman
Executive Director, Azteca Mexican Restaurants
Seattle, WA

Randy Thurman spends countless hours personally committed to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. He spends that time volunteering, and has done so for years and years. “This is not something that he does out of duty but rather out of joy and the goodness of his heart,” says a company spokesman. Azteca Mexican Restaurants, which has 27 units in Washington, Oregon and Florida, partners with the Mission, which tries to help people get back on their feet. “Helping people up and giving back is a critical part of Azteca’s success,” says Thurman.

Kevin Parker
Owner, Dutch Bros. Coffee franchise
Spokane, WA

Kevin Parker is one of those people who make you wonder how he gets it all done. He is a tremendous influence in his community and has contributed a great deal to charitable causes through Dutch Bros. In 2014 alone he raised $12,500 for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association and $4,016 for Generation Alive, an organization that educates Spokane’s youth about being leaders and combatting such ills as poverty. Parker also supports Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County, Christmas Wish, the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP), Spokane Guilds’ School & Neuromuscular Center, American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Second Harvest Food Bank. Additionally Parker serves on the boards of Generation Alive, the American Red Cross and Northwest Christian Schools. He also is a representative for Spokane’s 6th District in the Washington State Legislature and a teacher for the MBA programs at Whitworth University and Gonzaga University.

El Gaucho
Seattle, WA

El Gaucho has a decade-long relationship with the Seattle Union Gospel Mission, where the team serves lunch on the third Thursday and last Wednesday of each month. Over the last ten years El Gaucho, which has five units, has donated more than $3 million to the Mission and a host of other causes, which encompass schools, human services, health care, arts and cultural groups, as well as community improvements. “El Gaucho strongly believes in this mission to ‘serve, rescue and transform those in greatest need,’ and is proud to partner with them to help restore hope in our community,” says Chad Mackay, president and chief operating officer. Additionally the restaurant company also created a donor-aided matching program where El Gaucho matches every gift card purchased at full value. “For example, if you purchase a $100 gift card, El Gaucho will match it with another $100, creating a $200 gift card for your fundraising needs,” says Mackay.

Frasers Gourmet Hideaway
Oak Harbor, WA

For the last 13 years Frasers Gourmet Hideaway has been serving up free Thanksgiving dinners through its Community Harvest Celebration. Last year more than 3,000 people were treated to smoked turkey, ham and all the trimmings. “We have more than 200 volunteers that come to help on Thanksgiving by cooking, serving, cleaning, and delivering dinners to those who can’t leave the house or work,” says owner Scott Fraser. Local restaurateur Keith Bartlet, who died on the third annual Community Harvest Celebration, conceived of the event. The tradition has continued and it has been dedicated in his honor ever since. Frasers Gourmet also participates each year in the Oak Harbor Pigfest, an event that started off as a block party with live music, and a free BBQ pork lunch. “The success was overwhelming,” says Fraser. “We cooked 3,000 pounds of pork butt and fed 6,000 people a free BBQ lunch. This year we partnered up with the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association and had our first sanctioned BBQ competition.” The event raised $12,000 from donations, which benefited the local food bank, Help House, and CADA (Citizens Against Domestic Abuse), as well as North Whidbey Safety Net, which helps with uncovered prescription medicine expenses and urgent dental care.

Seattle, WA

Coffee behemoth Starbucks is going all out to support its own partners. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan was designed to help its employees in their quest to pursue a higher education. Through its partnership with Arizona State University, Starbucks created the chance for eligible partners to finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement through the school’s online degree program. “Junior and senior year students get a partial tuition scholarship and access to need-based financial aid,” says Shannon Boldizsar, manager, government and civic affairs. “This program was designed with two goals in mind: to reduce financial barriers to college access for Starbucks partners and to increase graduation rates.” Last year almost 4,000 Starbucks employees applied for the program.

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West Virginia

Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state. 


Sorry, this year we do not have any recipients for this state.