Round It Up America co-founders Harald Herrmann, president and CEO of Yard House Restaurants, and Jennifer Weerheim, the company’s vice president of marketing, are en route to Joplin, Missouri, to present a check of $30,000 to help those affected by the recent tornados with monies equally divided among the Ozarks Food Harvest, Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri, and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund.
Round It Up America invites guests of Yard House to “round up” their checks to the nearest dollar with the remaining change to help charities who support and protect the welfare of men, women, and children, as well as those who serve in the Armed Forces and their families.
“It’s because of the tremendous generosity of our guests that we are able to grant this money—our first ever to go towards victims of a national disaster,” says Herrmann, who collaborated with Weerheim on the idea of Round It Up America two years ago when the two heard media reports that local food banks were experiencing a deficit due to the economic downturn.
“We created an avenue for people to help other people by rounding up their checks and donating a few nickels and dimes to the cause," Herrmann says. "Yard House is the steward of these funds, but it’s really our guests who make it happen.”
Also contributing to the relief efforts are the guests of Lucille’s BBQ and Hof’s Hut, two Long Beach, California-based restaurants that are Round It Up America Mission Partners and have adopted the program as part of their business models, and the Ohio Restaurant Association, which generously stepped up to the plate to assist in the cause.
“It’s very important to thoroughly vet potential organizations to ensure the money lands in the right hands and helps those who need it most,” Weerheim says. “We turned to the Missouri Restaurant Association and asked for their assistance in helping us partner with a non-profit organization that is working directly with the victims. That’s how we selected these worthy organizations—Ozarks Food Harvest, Children’s Haven, and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund—who we know will have a direct impact on the residents and commerce of Joplin.”
Ozarks Food Harvest reaches more than 155,000 individuals and is southwest Missouri’s only food bank. Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri provides shelter and care for children traumatized by the devastation of the Joplin community and offers crisis care by providing short-term shelter for youngsters. The recent tornado affected more than 400 businesses and eliminated some 5,000 jobs in a few terrifying minutes, and now the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund has turned its attention to longer term needs of rebuilding its business community through support to individual businesses, as well as economic development and workforce needs.
Each Yard House restaurant raises an average of $30.00 per day for Round It Up America and brings in a daily average of $900 collectively from its 30 restaurants. For every dollar donated, 95 cents go straight to the charities, with only 5 cents used for administrative and operational costs. Since its inception 19 months ago, Round It Up America has raised $425,000 collectively to date and held its first granting ceremony last October where $250,000 was allocated to several non-profit organizations.
“What may have seemed an insignificant sum at the time—guests adding a few cents to “round up” their dining check—will make a huge difference in the lives of the people of Joplin,” says Bob Bonney, executive director of the Missouri Restaurant Association. “The guests of Yard House, as well as those of Lucille’s BBQ and Hof’s Hut, who participated in Round It Up America and provided the funds to make this all possible will, in all likelihood, never meet the people here in Joplin or know the impact their nickels, dimes, and quarters will have in rebuilding their lives. Round It Up America is proof that collective giving is a powerful tool.”
Monies raised from Round It Up America benefit food banks, homeless shelters, crisis relief centers, emergency assistance for military troops and their families, as well as services that protect the welfare of children. A portion is also allocated for the Educational Foundations, including California Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundations and ProStart Program, a career-building and job placement program for high school students interested in pursuing careers in the culinary arts and food service management.
Yard House team members are also leading by example and are participating in the cause themselves. Round It Up America's mantra, “Helping to Feed the Needs of Our Communities,” extends from servers and kitchen managers to bartenders and busboys. It’s an opportunity for the team members of Yard House to get behind the cause and educate others on the power of collective giving.