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Community Relations

Giving Back to Their Communities

Embracing Charitable Initiatives


The 2013 recipients of the Restaurant Neighbor awards have made a tremendous impact on their local communities.

Arby’s Restaurant Group

Atlanta, GA
Arby’s Restaurant Group works to ensure all children have access to wholesome food, but that commitment isn’t limited to the inside of its 3,500 restaurants.
Through the Arby’s Foundation and its partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, the organization has raised more than $5 million in the past two years. “We wanted to tackle the biggest cause we could,” says Kate Atwood, executive director of the Arby’s Foundation. “We made a bold move and aligned ourselves with the fight to end childhood hunger across America.”
Recognizing the overwhelming need during the summer break, Arby’s led the charge to help kids get the meals they need with its Hungry for Happiness mobile tour.
With a 14-wheeler truck fully equipped with a kitchen, sound system and enough storage to hold a summer’s worth of children’s activities and giveaways, the tour hit the road -- covering 8,000 miles and 15 cities.
In each city, Arby’s offered free meals to children at No Kid Hungry sites and gave $5,000 in unrestricted grants to each site. Arby’s volunteers served more than 4,300 healthy kids’ meals in 14 states and distributed $100,000 in grants.
The Arby’s Foundation also funded an innovative program that allows users to text their zip codes to receive the address of summer meal sites. More than 24,000 people used the program in three months.
During the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry promotion, each Arby’s restaurant offered bounce-back coupons in exchange for $1 customer donations. Some restaurants hosted bake sales, car washes and Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwich-eating contests. Last year, Arby’s team members and customers set a system record by raising almost $2.7 million.  
“Arby’s has integrated our mission into every aspect of its corporate culture by educating its employees, franchise members and vendor partners about child hunger in America,” says Thomas C. Nelson, president, Share Our Strength.
"Our message to help end hunger was resonating with our customers and franchisees. That’s when you know that what you are doing will have a real impact, when people get it."

El Gaucho Hospitality

Seattle, WA
El Gaucho Hospitality puts heart and soul into its mission, specifically the Seattle Union Gospel Mission, which helps “serve, rescue and transform those in greatest need.”
El Gaucho got involved in the mission's 2004 capital campaign by painting the facility, donating clothes and other necessities and raising $500,000. 
“I love working with the mission,” says Chad Mackay. “This is an organization that goes out 365 days of the year, rounding up homeless people. They see people that nobody else sees. It is truly inspiring, and you have to ask yourself, ‘What else can I do?’ ”
Twice a month since 2007, El Gaucho has served lunch at the mission. Over the past six years, it has feed about 10,000 meals to about 250 people.
Restaurant employees donate 12 to 15 hours preparing, cooking and serving meals. Each meal requires a staff of 10. 
El Gaucho also caters UGM’s annual fundraising event at a reduced rate. The five-restaurant company, which employs about 340 people, also donates auction items, including a fully catered. Seats for the 2013 event raised more than $23,000. 
Mackay would like to recruit other Seattle restaurants to serve meals at the mission. “I would like to see restaurants participate every day so we are serving 10,000 meals.”
Through its philanthropic efforts, El Gaucho has lived up to its commitment toward, “Building a Strong Community.” Since the company began, it has donated more than $3 million to hundreds of local organizations, including Seattle Union Gospel Mission.
"Sometimes we get a little too focused on ourselves. Once you go and serve, it is a humbling experience. People are forever changed."

Irish Pub

Philadelphia, PA
In its 25-year history, the Irish Pub Tour de Shore has raised nearly $3 million, grown from 25 riders to 1,650, and helped countless people. 
Created in 1988 by owners Cathy Burke and Mark O’Connor to give back to their communities and connect their restaurants, the 65-mile bike ride starts at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia and ends at the original Irish Pub in Atlantic City, N.J. 
“There should always be a component of giving back to the community, particularly in times of need, ” O’Connor says. 
As the bike ride has grown, the owners created the Irish Pub Children’s Foundation to manage increasing funds. There are now more than 200 volunteers, 19 corporate sponsors and 50 in-kind donors.  Four food sponsors supply an after-party for 2,500 people.
Last year, the staff’s hard work and passion allowed the company to help 13 organizations, including Chelsea Baseball of Atlantic City, Daniel Faulkner Educational Grant Fund, Fraternal Order of Police Survivors Fund, and Art Sanctuary.
The foundation provides emergency funds to the survivors of police officers killed in the line of duty to ensure already traumatized families don’t have to suffer the indignity of financial shortfall, says Joe Sullivan, chief inspector for the Philadelphia Police Department. 
Held on the last Sunday in July, the Irish Pub Tour de Shore, which is a year-round endeavor, is far beyond what the owners ever imagined.
"You can’t imagine how good it feels to see the kind of results we get from putting in all the hard work. It is so much more than we ever imagined."

Steve Paternoster

Scalo Northern Italian Grill
Albuquerque, NM
With a full time job as CEO of the YMCA of Central New Mexico, a thriving restaurant, community service and a family, Steve Paternoster is a man with a mission.
As the owner of Scalo Northern Italian Grill since 2005, Paternoster has made philanthropy a big part of his business model and his life. “I measure what I do by my relationships with my wife, my children and my community,” he says. “I appreciate knowing that I am useful, and the truth is it makes me feel really good to give back.”
From donating about $200,000 annually through Scalo to serving on local non-profit boards, Paternoster focuses on organizations that support four areas: chronic disease, the less fortunate, people at risk and the arts.
Paternoster and his daughter Haley founded the Special Programs Youth Assistance Foundation to help troubled youth because Haley had been through the juvenile system. A year later, she died of a heroin overdose. Through his grief, Paternoster became more driven to help others.
Since the foundation’s inception, Paternoster has hosted an annual holiday dinner at Scalo for troubled youth, their families, court staff and their families. Renamed Youth Matters, the program provides every teenager with a holiday gift card. 
Other causes close to Paternoster’s heart include Isshin Ryu, a non-profit organization designed to provide educational, recreational and enrichment activities to disadvantaged youth. Another is Heart Gallery Foundation of New Mexico, which helps hard-to-place foster children find loving homes, and New Mexico Military Institute. Paternoster, who graduated from NMMI, is president of its board.
He also is involved with New Mexico AIDS Services, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, Heart Hospital of New Mexico Foundation, and Dismas House, which supports people with chronic diseases. 
"The thing that is interesting about the restaurant industry is you don’t always have to write a check. There are so many ways of doing something that is creative and very satisfying."