The National Restaurant Association will today recognize this year's Restaurant Neighbor Award winners during a gala dinner at its 2012 Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. The award celebrates outstanding charitable service efforts restaurateurs perform in their communities.

This year's winners are: ARAMARK, headquartered in Philadelphia, in the large business category; Taste Buds Management in New Orleans, in the mid-size business category, and King Eider's Pub and Restaurant in Damariscotta, Maine, in the small business category.

Tammy and Noel Cunningham, owners of Denver's Strings Restaurant, are this year's Cornerstone Humanitarians.

"The recipients of this year's Restaurant Neighbor Award embody our mission to enhance the quality of life for all we serve," says Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President and CEO. 

"We are proud to recognize the incredible efforts of this year's winners, whose generosity and commitment to bettering their communities has touched the lives of countless individuals. Their stories exemplify the restaurant industry's dedication to community service." 

Each recipient receives a $5,000 contribution to their charitable initiatives. American Express is the founding partner of the Restaurant Neighbor Award.

The 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Award winners are:

Large business – ARAMARK, Philadelphia, Penn.: As a professional services company with 250,000 employees, the company takes pride in its signature philanthropic and volunteer program, ARAMARK Building Community.

Launched in 2008, the program helps families in underserved communities across the United States and beyond by providing funds, volunteers, programs, and professional services to strengthen community centers. To date, ARAMARK has contributed more than $7 million through grants, product donations and 15,000 employees volunteering their time to help the community. 

Mid-size business – Taste Buds Management, New Orleans, La.: After back-to-back tornadoes hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011, New Orleans-based chefs Greg Reggio, Hans Limburgh and Gary Darling launched Three Chefs One Mission. Remembering the help they received after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, these restaurateurs wanted to respond in kind.

The goal of the nonprofit is to serve hot meals to victims whenever or wherever disaster strikes. The three restaurateurs share a 20 year track record of supporting their community through myriad causes.

Small business – King Eider's Pub and Restaurant, Damariscotta, Maine: When Todd Maurer heard that some of his neighbors might go without heat because of the high cost of oil, he and two business associates formed the Community Energy Fund. 

Launched in 2005, Maurer enlisted the help of the entire community, including joining forces with other local restaurants to form "Dine in Damariscotta," which offers a share of its proceeds to the fund. The organization, which also provides gas cards to citizens, has raised nearly $400,000 to date and has kept 1,200 families warm.

This year's Cornerstone Humanitarian winner is:

Noel and Tammy Cunningham, Strings Restaurant, Denver, Colo.: In 2003, Noel and Tammy Cunningham created the Cunningham Foundation to help the impoverished people of Ethiopia. The couple has always put a high value on giving back, both globally and locally, including their invaluable role in getting hunger relief nonprofit Share our Strength's Taste of the Nation off the ground.

By encouraging young people to raise awareness and money for those who are less fortunate, the Cunningham Foundation hopes to enlist tomorrow's philanthropists today. To date, they have raised $750,000 for impoverished Ethiopians.

The National Restaurant Association and American Express developed the Restaurant Neighbor Award program in 1999 in an effort to raise awareness of the industry's contributions to local communities throughout the country, and to inspire more owners and operators to get involved within their respective neighborhoods.

Participating state restaurant associations select local winners and then nominate them to compete for the national award.

"American Express is proud to partner with the National Restaurant Association to honor the contributions restaurateurs across the country make to their communities," says Curtis L. Wilson, Vice President and General Manager, Restaurant, Lodging & Insurance Industries, American Express.

"Through charitable gifts of food, time, and resources, restaurants have a tangible and lasting impact on their communities; we hope these actions inspire others to do the same."

For more information on the Restaurant Neighbor Award program, as well as the national winners and finalists, visit the National Restaurant Association's website,

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 970,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees.

We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf.

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