NRA Announces 2009 Restaurant Neighbor Award Winners

WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 15)—The National Restaurant Association has announced the winners of its 2009 Restaurant Neighbor Award, which recognizes restaurants for outstanding community service. Honored at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., the winners each received a $5,000 donation to their respective causes.

This year’s winners are:

BJ's Restaurants, Huntington Beach, Calif., large business/national chain category. When one of BJ's Restaurants' 90 locations finds a philanthropic activity they want to support, its staff goes into TASC Force mode, or Team Action to Support Communities. Restaurants in the San Diego region joined forces last December to cheer athletes in the Southern California Special Olympics Floor Hockey tournament. The Greenwood, Ind., team built a playground with 40 volunteers for KaBoom!, a national playground-building organization. Employees from the Oxmoor restaurant in Louisville, Ky., participated in a Memorial Day vigil. And those are just a few examples. Stories and photos of more than 70 events are posted at www.bjsrestaurants.com/tascforce.

Rod's Steak & Seafood Grille, Morristown, N.J., mid-size business category. When the Keller siblings took over their parents' restaurant in 1972, they inherited a sense of community service - feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, in particular. They supported the local Community Soup Kitchen and the Market Street Mission. In 1990, they got involved with Eva's Village, a Paterson, N.J., organization that provides emergency shelter, job training, transitional housing, medical and dental care, and drug/alcohol treatment. It also serves hot, nutritious lunches to the homeless. The Keller family supports Eva's Village's through an annual fundraising gala, a golf tournament, holiday dinners and special luncheons.

Madam's Organ, Washington, D.C., small business category. Billy Duggan was driving home from his beach house 13 years ago when he passed children playing on a run-down, inner-city playground. Duggan, who owns Madam's Organ, a Washington, D.C. restaurant and bar, wanted to give the children a chance to be kids in a better environment. So, with the help of staff, family and the community, he started bringing groups of inner-city kids to his property in Dewey Beach, Del., each summer. The Madam's Organ team also holds an annual Christmas party for about 70 neighborhood kids and their parents.

Alex Ray, owner of Common Man Family of Restaurants, Ashland, N.H., Cornerstone Humanitarian category. Alex Ray's "doing good" philosophy is a matter of good business, according to Ray. In the past 38 years, Ray's Common Man Family of Restaurants and its 800 employees have been involved in hundreds of community-service events. Ray began small, with personal causes. Today, Ray reimburses employees at his 17 restaurants for community service and allows them to choose their projects. He was also instrumental in turning the homestead of 19th-century statesman and orator Daniel Webster into the Webster Place Recovery Center for people with drug and alcohol addictions, and is currently building a cooking school in Honduras.

"We are proud to honor these exceptional restaurants and community leaders for their dedicated commitment to enhancing the quality of life for everyone in their communities," said National Restaurant Association president and ceo Dawn Sweeney. "Our industry has a strong foundation and long history of philanthropy, and works to make a difference in local communities across the nation. This year's Restaurant Neighbor Award winners were selected for their innovative approaches and enormous efforts."


American Express is the founding partner of the Restaurant Neighbor Award.


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