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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Hungry to Help! Dine Locally to Donate to Schools

By Lisa Adams Walter

The first school bells will ring in the 2022-2023 academic year this month, also signaling the beginning of sports, music, arts and other extracurricular activities.

Many of the programs that enrich education need more fiscal support than school districts and tuition programs provide. Those involved, such as room parents, coaches, directors, booster clubs and parent teacher associations, therefore, regularly rely upon fundraisers to make ends meet. Hungry to help? Get ready to dine and donate. Locally, with our vibrant hospitality industry, thousands have benefitted from Dine and Donate events hosted by generous restaurateurs. A Dine and Donate event is typically promoted by an outside organization, group or team who encourages patrons to dine at a specific restaurant on a certain day and time, the restaurant then donates a portion of proceeds back to the designated group. Everybody wins!

"Most of these programs are not supported by the school district or state funding, so they are forced to fundraise to keep these important programs alive.” ~ Tom Finch of Filippi’s Pizza Grotto

Dine and Donates support Napa County Schools and youth-related organizations, as well as other causes. Why are they so important? “Because most of these programs are not supported by the school district or state funding, so they are forced to fundraise to keep these important programs alive,” explained Tom Finch of Filippi’s Pizza Grotto located in the Oxbow District. “Almost every Dine and Donate event is run by parents and volunteers that are focused on giving back to their children’s education and growth.

At the north end of the city of Napa, Ben Koenig of Heritage Eats said, “We have always looked at our presence as a small business in Napa as a privilege and not something to be taken for granted. So, for us, a decision was made early on to contribute and participate as much as reasonably possible in community-related causes so that we could in some small way do our part to strengthen the foundation of our special community. Fundraising is a necessary evil in many ways for a lot of organizations in the community, and if we are able to use our platform to not only help raise a few bucks for a good cause, but also to bring a sense of camaraderie and togetherness for the participating organization, then we are happy to do our part.”

“As we support the programs, we also build a reputation that we are focused on the kids and the community. In turn we are supported by that same community,” Finch added, listing schools, youth sports, foster programs, housing programs, choirs, churches, elder care and cancer support amongst the many programs that his restaurant has supported.

As a parent and always-eager (Eat out in Napa? Yes, please!) restaurant patron, I have a personal understanding of how every penny counts in terms of making something happen or helping someone out. Not only is it a treat to go out, it feels pretty great to know that I am simultaneously helping out a program in need.

Some other local restaurants that give back through Dine and Donate programs include Tarla, Food Shed, Il Posto, Taqueria Rosita, Hop Creek, Ristorante Allegria, Mary’s Pizza Shack and Villa Corona.

Finch said, “Everyone should be involved in their community. Volunteering for a non-profit is rewarding, and since it takes a lot of energy to motivate these programs, the more that are involved the more successful they become. As well, if you have a child or a loved one who is supported by one of these programs, you will quickly understand why the help is so necessary.”

“A large majority of the Dine and Donates are in some way, shape or form tied to a youth-related cause within our community. The kids are really the bedrock of Napa, so it seems to us a no-brainer to want to do whatever is in our power to help enable the various initiatives and efforts that give them opportunities to get ahead,” said Koenig.

For both Heritage Eats and Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, they are approached by many groups annually, and again and again the events have been successful. Filippi’s estimates in excess of $350,000 has been donated back to local organizations as a result of Dine and Donate events!

Dave Ruane, who directs the Napa High Vocal Music Workshop has worked alongside other music directors and parents to help raise funds for the Napa High Choral Boosters which benefits several music programs at the school.

“We feel very fortunate to have such great community support from restaurants like FoodShed, Villa Corona, Mary’s Pizza, Hop Creek Pub, Heritage Eats, MOD Pizza, Fillipi’s and Oxbow Public Market. Our group has received between 20 and 30 percent of the food sales from these restaurants at our Dine and Donates. Some of these establishments donate additional funds beyond the agreed upon percentage of that day’s ticket sales.” Ruane reports. “This has been an important part of our fundraising efforts for many years. We receive very little funding for new music and enrichment activities for our choir students. It is a fun way to bring our choir families and supporters together to help fund our program. They don’t have to cook and get to feel great about supporting a program that creates life changing experiences for our students.”

At Heritage Eats, Koenig says that the Dine and Donates have been nothing but positive. “When it comes down to it, the success of the Dine and Donate really hinges upon the outreach plan that the participating organization or group puts together to get the word out. Some groups do a great job of spreading the word and rallying their community to support. Others, for whatever reason, have a harder time in finding that sort of traction. No matter the outcome, we are happy to help in any small way we can. Even a few hundred dollars goes a long way!”

“Get involved,” Finch at Filippi’s encouraged, “Unfortunately the state has taken away support for most of these programs that are vital to the development of our youth and those in need.”

Contact restaurants directly to set up a Dine and Donate. At Heritage Eats the best way to reach out is through their website and then submit a “catering inquiry” or send an email to Ben Koenig at Tom Finch at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto welcomes phone call inquiries at 254-9700.


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