Archive for May, 2012
A hard-working waiter has been rewarded with a record sized tip from a couple of regulars at his restaurant. (He knows their identity, but has promised to protect their anonymity.)
Greg Rubar, who works at D’Amico’s Italian Market Café in Rice Village, Houston, and who has been travelling to work for several weeks by cabs, buses, or borrowed vans, to hold on to his job, after his car had been lost to flooding, was amazed last Saturday to receive a gift of $5,000 (in $100 bills) from the altruistic couple, who said they wanted him to use it to buy a replacement vehicle.
The shy waiter – who has subsequently been embarrassed by all the attention that the tip has brought him – initially reacted by bursting into tears in response to his customers’ generosity. He then tried to return the money, but his benefactors refused. He now plans to put it to good use, and buy the best car he can with it, in recognition of their philanthropic gesture.
The incident emphasises the excellent relationship that the 42-year-old (who has a young family dependent on him) has with his customers, after 16 years on the job: he has been waiting on this particular couple for about half of that time. He has described the anonymous donors simply as “really nice people”. And his boss says “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person”.
I freely admit that I rarely take an interest in designer label goods – I’ve always tended to consider them generally overpriced and the whole concept rather shallow. But a couple of years ago I did buy a pair of Tommy Hilfiger’s shoes, which I found quite stylish and surprisingly comfortable. I have since worn them extensively, and I have to say that they are still going strong. For once, it seems, I wasn’t simply being asked to pay for the name – what I got was genuine quality.
“What!” I hear you exclaim. “Isn’t this meant to be a charity and philanthropy blog – not a fashion one?” Ah, well you see… the reason I mention this is that I have just discovered that the iconic American designer has an altruistic side, and that it heavily influences his fashion business. What’s more, he is a major contributor to the cause of improving the wellbeing of young people worldwide – a cause that is particularly close to my own heart, as a Trustee of the Chreda Foundation.
Seventeen years ago he launched the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation, “to enrich the physical and intellectual well being [sic] of youth”, with particular emphasis on education and culture. More recently (2009) the Foundation joined forces with Millennium Promise and the Millennium Villages Project “to improve maternal and child health, boost crop yields, extend access to safer water, and support quality education”, in particular in the Millennium Village of Ruhiira in Uganda.
As a major part of this initiative, Tommy designated a range of his clothing and accessories “The Promise Collection”, and actress Katie Holmes recently signed up to become the ‘face’ of the Collection, the logo for which is the shape of the African continent. The range – which includes fashionable sunglasses – is inspired by the colours and textures of the African landscape and native dress. Profits will go directly to the Millennium Villages Project.
Katie and Tommy have each visited Ruhiira, and they apparently found the experience both humbling and inspirational. Jointly, they are determined to raise public awareness of the poverty issues that plague that part of the world, and they want to make a real contribution to bringing about the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015.
Already, Millennium Promise has begun making a significant difference to poor people’s lives, and it’s good to see celebrities such as Tommy Hilfiger and Katie Holmes throwing their weight behind the campaign.
A few days ago I commented on the award of the Templeton Prize to the Dalai Lama, and his generosity in donating the money to charity. Now I understand from the Scotsman that he will in turn be honouring philanthropic youngsters during his UK visit. On 22 June he will be at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, where he will present the Youth Compassion Award, a new award created by the Edinburgh Evening News, together with organisers of the visit, to honour the young person between the ages of 10 and 24 who has done the most to transform themselves, their community or the world around them through distinctive acts of compassion and altruism. Similar awards are apparently also planned for London and Manchester, and together these three awards are considered quite ground-breaking.
According to the report, the Dalai Lama’s representative, Thubten Samdup, said: “The main purpose of His Holiness’ visit to the UK in June is engagement with…young people, because…until we are able to educate the hearts and minds of young people, nothing’s going to change…the time has come [for] young people to [decide] the kind of future…they want…for themselves and their children, [then to] to stand up and be the change…this…must be the century of dialogue and peace…and only…young people…can make that difference. We’re looking for young individuals that have…taken on…altruistic, compassionate work [and have] made a real contribution to society.”
Nominations (of yourself or another – provided resident in Edinburgh or the Lothians) for the Youth Compassion Award can be made in writing (max. 500 words) to Youth Compassion Award, Edinburgh Evening News, 108 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AS. These must be received before the closing date of June 8.
The pay-what-you-want pricing model has received mixed reviews – it has even been suggested that it may sometimes completely deter potential customers from purchasing at all. But one company that has made a success of it is the Panera Bread Co. And a big factor in their success appears to be their altruistic use of the system to create what has been dubbed a “community kitchen”… a business operating partly as a charity.
Two years ago the company (which was already well-known for its charitable generosity and socially responsible use of leftover food) decided that it wanted to do more to feed the needy and raise money for charity, so it converted its Clayton, St Louis (USA) restaurant into a ‘pay-want-you-want’ community kitchen, run by the Panera Foundation. Not only did the enterprise cover its costs, but it also generated around $3-4,000 per month of additional revenue, which was then used to fund job-training for at-risk young people. Kids who would otherwise have been anti-social and unemployable were given a combination of life skills and job training, and the first 3 graduates of the programme were then given permanent jobs at other Panera restaurants. The experiment has been so successful that the company has since started rolling the model out across its chain, nationwide. The menu board gives ‘suggested funding levels’, rather than prices, and all payments go into a donation box. The restaurant’s experience has been that around 60% of patrons pay the recommended price for their meal, with about 20% paying more – in one case, someone actually paid $500. Just 20% pay less than the suggested amount, and the company is OK with this, as they emphasise that most of these people are probably needier than they look, so even in such cases the restaurant is probably still engaging in philanthropic activity. Peer pressure is thought to generally operate against abuse of the system (although it does occasionally happen). “People are fundamentally good”, as the company observes; and they hope others will be similarly encouraged to “put faith in humanity”.
Panera Bread was recognised for its efforts in last year’s CLASSY Awards, when it was named Philanthropic Business of the Year. StayClassy – organiser of the CLASSY Awards – recently announced that up until 14 June it will be accepting nominations for this year’s awards, honouring everyday people, charities and businesses for their philanthropic efforts. So if you know an individual or an organisation that you think deserves recognition, visit this link: http://www.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/nominate. You can choose from 16 different categories of charitable achievement. Winners will be announced on 22 September, at a ceremony in San Diego.
Then, a few days ago, the pair opened a new unit for one of Fergie’s favourite charities – the Teenage Cancer Trust – at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, Surrey. The 13-bed unit is for patients aged between 16 and 24, and cost £3.5 million, which took the charity 3 years to fund. The royals were a big hit with the youngsters they met there: they chatted with them and played pool, then unveiled a rooftop plaque.
The Duchess is a founding patron of the Trust, and attends all unit openings: she also attends its fundraising events. She is a keen supporter of charities – particularly those that cater for young people. In 2006 she set up the Sarah Ferguson Foundation, Canada, which aims to help children (and their mothers) around the world, regardless of cultural differences. She also supports the following charities:
- Children in Crisis
- The African Caribbean Leukemia Trust
- The White Ribbon Alliance
- The Peres Center for Peace
- Kerry’s Joy World
- Springboard for Children
- Romanian Relief
- Les P’tits Cracks
- Action on Addiction
- The Mullany Fund