The holidays are always a time of giving, a special time of year we focus on giving to others who are less fortunate. “Building Community” is one of the pillars our company was founded upon and is a year-round focus for our family of restaurants. Not only do we provide a place of celebration, but we are also generous in our fundraising for local charities, by giving of our time, resources, and energy to help build better communities.
This foundation was laid by our owner and founder, Paul Mackay, when he reopened El Gaucho in 1996. We estimate that through financial giving, time, and resources, we have proudly donated over $3.5 million to local organizations since our inception, and that number steadily climbs every year.
In 2014 alone, the donations to local organizations have totaled over $250,000 – a combination of in-kind giving, through our Gridiron Society and charitable match programs, and our ongoing work with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM).
Since 1932, the Mission has dedicated its efforts to compassionately helping those in need with services in education, spiritual development, and basic life essentials. We strongly believe in their mission to “serve, rescue, and transform those in greatest need,” and are proud to partner with them to help restore hope in our community.
Our AQUA and El Gaucho Seattle restaurant teams sign up to donate their time preparing and serving lunch twice a month at UGM, feeding 250 homeless each time, with more than 11,000 lunches served to date. Once an employee experiences serving at the shelter, a transformation invariably occurs, and most agree that they receive so much by serving and giving.
“What we’ve received through working with UGM far outweighs what we have given. The opportunity to interact with those we feed is both humbling and enlightening,” said Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager. “Hearing the stories of both struggles and triumphs, has altered the lives of our staff. Each month, I notice a difference in my team after we have visited; they are a bit gentler, kinder toward each other, thankful, and genuinely moved by their time at the shelter.”
El Gaucho and AQUA are the only restaurants that volunteer at this level at the Mission. We would love to see other restaurants serve in this capacity and are happy to assist other businesses achieve this level of donation. As noted in the 5/23/14 Puget Sound Business article about our work with UGM, “While many companies contribute real dollars to charitable causes, it is the in-kind giving that can bring givers and beneficiaries face to face. Sometimes the best gift a company can give is the goods or services that are the core of their expertise.”
In addition to serving lunch, El Gaucho Hospitality also assists with UGM fundraising efforts throughout the year, and donates items for auction. El Gaucho Hospitality was awarded the National Restaurant Association’s “Good Neighbor” award for our ongoing commitment to serving at UGM. Paul Mackay received the award on behalf of our company at their annual event in Washington, D.C. in 2012. This short video shows more about our work.
The El Gaucho Community
Incorporating our guests in our giving strategy has provided a huge impact on local charities and in the connections we have with our best customers. The charitable match program was created when the recession hit in 2010: funds were tight, and the donation requests outstripped our capacity to give. We have a hard time saying no, so we created a way to continue our generous giving program, and the charitable match program was born. We match every El Gaucho Hospitality gift card purchased at full value to benefit any non-profit organization’s fundraising need. We don’t set a on the amount we will match, and the only limit is the organization’s creativity on how to package or market the gift cards. The program has been extremely successful, with other high-profile, fine dining establishments following suit.
Around that same time, our guest loyalty programs launched, and we wanted to include a charitable component, as well as aspiring for our guests to direct where our donations should go. Today, our Gridiron Society members are able to annually donate a Chef’s Wine Dinner for four, valued at $600, to any charity of their choice. The Gridiron Society is an invitation only group exclusive to El Gaucho Hospitality restaurants, and while member’s names are not published, we will help organizations tap into this resource.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
We strongly feel that each of us has a certain obligation to help make our world a better place, and we are privileged to serve and give back to the communities we deeply care about.
For more information on our charitable giving, or to request a donation, please visit our website.