"These five restaurants set extraordinary examples of the commitment to service that restaurants across Illinois demonstrate on a regular basis," Sheila O'Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said in a press statement. "Their actions exhibit the significance of kindness and compassion and show one of the many important roles restaurants play in their communities."
Keefer's Restaurant, Chicago
Winner of: Cornerstone Humanitarian Award
For the past eight years, Glenn Keefer, owner of Keefer's Restaurant, has provided dinner to more than 12,500 homeless hungry people. Through his efforts with the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Charities, 130 homeless and hungry people are provided with dinners once a month on a Tuesday Night. Glenn has also recruited his peers in the restaurant community by writing letters to encourage additional participation and support of the Tuesday Night Dinner Program.
Morton's Restaurant Group, Chicago
Winner of: Large Business/National Chain Category
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Morton's Restaurant Group partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the "30 Wishes for 30 Years" campaign, which aims to make 30 wishes come true for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. The goal was to raise $125,000, but with the commitment and volunteer efforts of Morton's employees, $373,875 was raised. More than 5,000 employees from Morton's 79 restaurants and Chicago corporate office volunteered during the campaign for a total of 10,413.5 hours.
Harry Caray's, Chicago
Winner of: Mid-Size Business Category
Chicago Gateway Green is a program dedicated to the greening and beautification of Chicago. Harry Caray's Restaurant Group president Grant DePorter and Harry Caray's employees have lent a helping hand in Gateway Green's efforts for the past 22 years, completing tasks such as planting trees on the expressways and city parks, painting and picking up litter. The restaurant has also donated overall catering and food stations for the charity's signature event, the Green Tie Ball.
Levy Restaurants, Chicago
Winner of: Mid-Size Business Category
For more than 10 years, Levy Restaurants has celebrated a signature holiday program, Project Great Elf. The project has brightened the holidays for thousands of Chicago-area children. In 2008, Levy adopted an entire school and delivered more then 850 gifts to the students of Little Village Academy. Levy staff members volunteered their time by sorting letters, creating gift lists, sending cards to partners, shopping, wrapping gifts, baking cookies and delivering the gifts.
Denny's of Joliet, Joliet, Ill.
Winner of: Small Business Category
Joey and Susan Terrell, owners of Denny's of Joliet are taking the lead in establishing green initiatives in restaurants. The restaurant recently registered as a US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification. Features in this new Denny's include: insulated walls and roofing, reflective membrane on the roof, instant hot water heaters, skylights, and energy efficient dishwashers and fryers. It will be the first green Denny's in America.
The National Restaurant Association and founding partner American Express developed the Restaurant Neighbor Award to raise awareness about the restaurant industry's contributions in local communities across the country and to inspire other restaurant operators and owners to make even greater contributions in their communities. Four national winners will each receive a $5,000 award to continue their community programs and be presented the awards this September in Washington, D.C. Both national and state winners will be recognized on the National Restaurant Association Web site.