Ollie's Restaurant

NRAEF Announces Neighbor, Diversity Award Winners

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced its 2015 Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity American Dream award winners.

The winners will be honored at a gala on April 14 during the National Restaurant Association's Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Foundation's Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, celebrates charitable service performed by restaurant operators. Now in its 17thyear, the award recognizes the impact restaurants and entrepreneurs have made on their local communities.

The Faces of Diversity American Dream award, sponsored by PepsiCo, is given to diverse members of the restaurant industry who have, through hard work and perseverance, achieved the American Dream.

"The recipients of the 2015 Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity awards tell the story of opportunity and community engagement within the restaurant industry,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of strategic operations and philanthropy for the NRAEF. More than three-quarters of America's restaurant owners started their careers in an entry-level position and charitable contributions in the industry exceed $3 billion annually.”

Recipients of the 2015 Restaurant Neighbor Award receive a $5,000 contribution to continue supporting their charitable initiatives. The winners are:

  • Ollie's Restaurant (Edwardsville, Pa.): Since 2011, Ollie's Restaurant has provided six meals a week to children at risk of hunger through its Dinners for Kids program. Currently, staff and volunteers prepare and deliver 37,000 meals annually for 120 children.
  • The King's Kitchen / Jim Noble Restaurants (Charlotte, North Carolina): In 2008, the Jim Noble Restaurants formed a separate nonprofit restaurant, the King's Kitchen, with 100 percent of its proceeds used to feed the less fortunate. The kitchen also provides job training opportunities for homeless men and women. At least once a week, the staff provides boxed lunches and distributes sandwiches to those living on the streets.
  • Cornerstone Humanitarians: Ryan Turner, Chris Hall & Todd Mussman, Founders, Unsukay Community of Businesses (Atlanta): The founders hosted a community fundraiser for an employee who was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancerand and raised nearly $300,000 within a four week period to help offset his expenses. The outpouring of support from the Atlanta restaurant community sparked the idea for the Unsukay partners to help found and create The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit whose funds provide crisis grants to members of Atlanta's restaurant community. In just over a year, $300,000 dollars has already been granted to more than 150 recipients.
  • T.L. Cannon Companies (Williamsville, New York): As a franchisee of 61 Applebee's restaurants across New York and Connecticut, T.L. Cannon Companies provided nearly $2.5 million in monetary and in-kind donations in 2014 through creative, in-store fundraisers.

The 2015, the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award went to three restaurant entrepreneurs. The winners are:

  • Nafees Alam, CEO, DRG Concepts (Dallas, Texas): Alam, who came to the U.S. from Bangladesh at age 17, entered the restaurant industry out of college as an executive with Waffle House. He joined DRG Concepts, a restaurant operations brand that has helped revitalize Downtown Dallas. Alam and his staff have been involved with various charities.
  • Carlito Jocson, Corporate Executive Chef, Yard House (Irvine, California): Jocson emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines at a young age. While studying biochemistry in college, he worked at a restaurant, eventually leaving his pre-med program to become a chef. For the last 30 years, Jocson has enjoyed a successful career, including 16 years as Yard House's executive chef and an original partner. He continues to be involved in organizations that help educate younger generations about Filipino culture and feeds up to 150 homeless and at-risk families every week.
  • Pamela Patton, Patton's Restaurant & Catering, (Des Moines, Iowa): Raised in rural Georgia with her seven siblings, Patton was the first member of her family to graduate college. Patton loved to cook, and began inviting Drake College students to her home after church, offering a home cooked meal and leftovers to carry them over for a few days. The number of students she helped grew from 25 to 100. While working in corporate  in Des Moines, she started a catering business while still feeding college students. In 2010, she secured a loan from the Targeted Small Business (TSB) and her business opened in 2011.

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