By Rachael Smith
Restaurants are for-profit businesses, meaning they provide a service to customers who pay. But that doesn’t mean restaurants in the Lynchburg area aren’t passionate about giving back to the community.
According to data from the National Restaurant Association, 9 in 10 restaurants actively are involved in community service.
Numerous restaurants engage in charitable activities, and it would be impossible to list them all in a single article. Here is a look at a few examples of this in our area.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a food kitchen in Amherst County, has a plethora of local eateries helping out: Woodruff’s Pie Shop, Waterstone Pizza, Depot Grille, La Caretta in Madison Heights, El Mariachi, Sweet Briar College, JT’s Grill, The Briar Patch Restaurant and Tony’s Catering.
“Our restaurant partners help to reduce food cost we would normally have to spend for a meal,” said Garry Friend, president of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “Their involvement brings attention to the hunger needs in our community. Having these partnerships is good for clients, good for the community and good for their business. It’s a win-win situation.”
Rodolfo Sanchez, manager of El Mariachi in Amherst, said the Mexican restaurant has been providing food for Neighbors Helping Neighbors since 2016.
He said it is important to him that even though he operates a business to still give back to the community and help those people in need.
The restaurant provides the fixings to make tacos for 40 to 50 people twice per month.
Jason Arbusto, culinary director at Craddock Terry Hotel, Shoemakers American Grille and Waterstone Pizza, said he provides 30 to 50 meals to Neighbors Helping Neighbors twice per month.
As a chef who is passionate about food, he said he also enjoys giving back with his culinary talents by auctioning himself off for area organizations and will prepare a private dinner for the winner of the auction.
He said certain things are near and dear to his heart, such as the Lynchburg Humane Society and the Jubilee Family Development Center.
“It’s important to not just be 100% capitalist about everything and get to know the stories of the people in this community. Knowing how we can help is important to us,” he said.
Carrie Wright, who is the director of strategic development, said the company has made a decision to make a strategic effort to focus on giving in the areas of homelessness, hunger and education.
In February, eight team members received at least a $2,500 scholarship, with one receiving $10,000. Just this month, an additional six team members applied for the scholarship that will be awarded in 2020.
Wright said this is one of the emphases in Chick-fil-A’s giving that tangibly helps students receive an education.
Locally, it has participated in the Pearson Cancer Center’s Trees of Hope the last three years by making a tree donation for auction.
“This year we partnered with Michelle Thomas and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by asking our guests to donate books at our Wards Road and River Ridge locations,” she said. “We donated the first 100 books and our guests contributed more than 500.”
She said Chick-fil-A presented Children’s Miracle Network with more than 600 books at this year’s Miracle Ball in August.
This year, the restaurant has been partners or sponsors with golf tournaments benefiting local nonprofits and organizations that give back to the community.
“These aren’t necessarily things every Chick-fil-A does or has to do but this is just a small portion of what we regularly do,” Wright said.
In years past, it also has held school supply drives and donated the supplies to patients at the Johnson Health Center, a federally qualified health center serving Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Bedford and Campbell.
“We’ve done backpacks and diaper bags that were donated to children entering foster care through the Mosaic organization,” she said. “We try to find a supply drive and a local organization every year to contribute [to] in our community.”
Dave Saunders, owner of the Texas Inn, said in addition to supporting local youth athletics in Campbell and Amherst counties as well as Lynchburg, the restaurant, which has locations on Main Street and in Cornerstone, just finished a partnership with the YWCA of Central Virginia by raising $4,000 through Christmas ornament sales.
“I remember the Salvation Army having bell ringers in front of the downtown store when I was a kid. Supporting local groups and giving money back to the community helps them, but it also is good for business. I believe people want to do business with a local company that supports local charities. If a customer is thinking about spending $10 on food, maybe they think of us first instead of a national fast food chain because that money stays local and a little bit of it goes back to support things they care about.”
Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.