Hungry hearts give to hurricane victims

Leslie Schelat

Helping hurricane victims has never been so delicious.

Yesterday more than 16,000 restaurants across the country teamed up to raise money for the American Red Cross and victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The restaurants collaborate under the name “Dine for America” and donate portions of sales and profits and serve as donation drop-off centers to raise money for those affected by national disasters.

“A lot of people knew,” said Erin Lohr, a recent Kent State graduate and waitress at Olive Garden in Cuyahoga Falls. “There were ads on FoodTV.”

The American Red Cross will receive 100 percent of proceeds from yesterday’s Dine for America effort.

“I think it is a good idea,” Lohr said. “It’s just a nice thing to do.”

Ohio has 574 restaurants that participated. Mr. Hero collected donations at most area locations, including the eatery on South Water Street in Kent. More than 25 restaurants in the Akron and Cuyahoga Falls area participated, including Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Longhorn Steakhouse, Eat N’ Park and Chuck E. Cheese.

Darden Restaurants, which includes the Olive Garden located at 480 Howe Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls, will donate 100 percent of yesterday’s profits to hurricane relief efforts.

“Olive Garden isn’t the only restaurant doing it,” Lohr said. “There are five Darden restaurants and Chili’s.”

Other than Olive Garden, Darden Restaurants include Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Smoky Bones and Season 52.

“It’s an awesome way to donate,” said junior zoology major Sam Butterini. “I get to eat and they still get money.”

Although Lohr said other than a large group late in the evening, eat-in business was about average.

“A lot of businesses called in orders so they could support it,” she said.

Douglas Haines, general manager of the Cuyahoga Falls Olive Garden, said the total donation amount should be announced Friday.

Dine for America started in 2001 by restaurant employees in Seattle as a fundraiser for those affected by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Their boss encouraged them to contact executives in the restaurant industry, which led to 8,000 eateries raising more than $20 million. It was America’s second largest fundraiser for Sept. 11 victims.

Dine for America is not an actual organization. It is a group of restaurants joining together to raise money for the Red Cross. Restaurants are encouraged to donate a percentage of sales or profits, donate for each guest or a specific menu item, donate a set amount or serve as a donation center.

For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].