Dining and donations

New United Way fund raiser offers opportunity to give

Lemon Grass owner Peter Dong, center, get ready for What Matters on Your Platter campaign for United Way with the assistance of Aaron Killian of United Way and Randy Burleson of Aubrey’s.

Lemon Grass owner Peter Dong, center, get ready for What Matters on Your Platter campaign for United Way with the assistance of Aaron Killian of United Way and Randy Burleson of Aubrey’s.

For the next ten days local restaurants will be giving diners a choice when they’ve finished their meal: Have dessert or donate to the United Way of Blount County?

Of course, you can always do both.

United Way of Blount County’s new campaign What Matters on Your Platter kicks off today, Nov. 1, and ends Nov. 11. Brain-child of Aubrey’s owner Randy Burleson, What Matters on Your Platter will give diners an opportunity to include adonation to United Way of Blount County with their dining bill.

Servers at participating restaurants will present the United Way brochure when they present the meal ticket and ask patrons if they’d like to contribute. The restaurants will act as collection points for the United Way of Blount County Platter campaign, which lasts for 11 days.

What Matters on Your Platter allows smaller businesses, such as locally owned restaurants, to help the United Way campaign, said the organizers.

“Restaurants are big gathering places where people are blessed with good meals, and this is a good opportunity for people to give back,” Burleson said.

“We don’t have employee drives and payroll deductions, that type of thing,” said Lynn Cox, owner and operator of Huddle House Restaurants. “We typically do a little something one time a year and raise some money, but then they came up with this idea specifically for restaurants. This year I know my employees are pretty fired up about. This is their way of saying we’d like to help.”

The money raised from What Matters on Your Platter goes to the United Way of Blount County and serves the people of Blount County.

“One of the issues brought up by several different restaurant owners was ‘where does the money go?’ The programs we support benefit the people of our local community,” said Aaron Killian, communications and marketing coordinator for United Way of Blount County.

“We’re doing it because it’s United Way and all the money stays in the Blount County area,” said Cox.

Killlian explained that often when restaurants are asked to participate with non-profit organizations, they are asked to contribute capital or food.

“This way they can get involved without any out-of-pocket expense,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success with locally-owned restaurants getting on board. It just takes their time and effort.”

Restaurants participating in What Matters on Your Platter are:

Aubrey’s

Gracie’s

Huddle House

Lemon Grass

Sun-Up Diner

Shoney’s

Foothills Milling Company

Killian said they are very pleased with the wide variety of restaurants that are involved. “We are really appreciative of how the local restaurants have embraced this program,” he said.

Burleson stressed that contributions through What Matters on Your Platter help the people of Blount County, and he noted that many restaurants have joined the program because contributions will be used to support local programs.

“The locally owned restaurants have been the ones who have embraced the program easily,” said Burleson. “Talking to good local people, like at Gracie’s Restaurant who want to keep their money in Blount County, was a great moment for me personally.”

Gracie’s Restaurant owner Ken Gentry commented on the importance of supporting a program that impacts his community.

“There are a lot of programs and organizations you can donate to that sound good, and in actuality, a lot of that money doesn’t stay in the area,” Gentry said, adding that he feels obligated to give back to the community that has helped his restaurant thrive.

“I’m grateful to the people of this area for allowing me to be successful, and I realize there are people out there who haven’t been as fortunate,” Gentry said.

There is still room for more restaurants to participate in what Matters on Your Platter. “Don’t worry about the mechanics of it all. We will help with everything. We take care of the posters, other advertisement, print ads and commercials,” Killian said.

For more information or to become a participating restaurant, contact Killian at at 865-982-2251 or at akillian@unitedwayblount.org.

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