NRA honors 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Awards winners


The National Restaurant Association is honoring the recipients of the 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Awards at a gala dinner Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

The awards recognize restaurateurs who have performed outstanding charitable services in their communities, the NRA said.

This year’s recipients are:

Aramark, the Philadelphia-based onsite feeder, in the large business category

Taste Buds Management in New Orleans, in the mid-size business category

King Eider’s Pub and Restaurant in Damariscotta, Maine, in the small business category

Tammy and Noel Cunningham, the owners of Strings Restaurant in Denver, Cornerstone Humanitarian Award

Each of the winners is presented with a $5,000 contribution for their charitable initiatives.

“The recipients of this year’s Restaurant Neighbor Award embody our mission to enhance the quality of life for all we serve,” Dawn Sweeney, the NRA’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “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.”

Aramark’s signature philanthropic and volunteer program, ARAMARK Building Community, was launched in 2008. The program aids families in underserved communities by providing funds, volunteers, programs and professional services to strengthen community centers. Aramark has contributed more than $7 million through grants, product donations and 15,000 employees volunteering their time.

After tornadoes ravaged Alabama and Missouri in 2011, chefs Greg Reggio, Hans Limburgh and Gary Darling of New Orleans-based Taste Buds Management founded Three Chefs One Mission. Recalling the aid they received in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, the trio sought to give back in kind. The goal of Three Chefs One Mission is to serve hot meals to victims whenever or wherever disaster strikes.

In 2005, Todd Maurer of King Eider’s Pub and Restaurant in Damariscotta, Maine, learned that several of his neighbors might have to go without heat because of the high cost of oil. As a result, he and two business associates launched the Community Energy Fund. Maurer joined forces with other local restaurants to form “Dine in Damariscotta,” which donates a percentage of its proceeds to the fund. The organization, which also offers gas cards to residents, has generated nearly $400,000 to date and has kept 1,200 families warm.

In 2003, Noel and Tammy Cunningham of Strings Restaurant in Denver launched the Cunningham Foundation to help aid impoverished Ethiopians. To date, they have raised $750,000. In addition, the Cunninghams have played a key role in the launch of hunger relief nonprofit Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation. The Cunningham Foundation encourages young people to raise awareness and money for those who are less fortunate.

American Express is the founding partner of the Restaurant Neighbor Award, which was introduced in 1999 to help raise awareness of the foodservice industry’s contributions around the country and to encourage more operators to become involved in their respective communities.

“Through charitable gifts of food, time and resources, restaurants have a tangible and lasting impact on their communities,” said Curtis L. Wilson, vice president and general manager, Restaurant, Lodging & Insurance Industries, American Express. “We hope these actions inspire others to do the same.”

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