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Californians Continuing to Do Good

California’s tourism industry has historically led the way to recovery from crisis with its ingenuity, resilience and philanthropic spirit. Chefs, hoteliers and all manner of business owners are finding ways to step up, pivot and move forward while also uplifting their communities during a period of state and national strife. 

Good Food, Good Deeds

  • Filipino chefs and restaurants have used cultural comfort food to help their communities. In the San Francisco Bay Area, non-profit economic development and arts organization Kultivate Labs launched the "Filipinos Feed The Frontlines" campaign, raising over $100,000 to stabilize Filipino-American restaurants in San Francisco and distributing meals to healthcare workers, scientists, seniors and low-income families as a result of COVID-19. In San Diego, Chef Phillip Esteban supported his hometown during the initial days of COVID-19 by preparing Filipino silog (rice bowls) through his catering business, Craft Meals, for at-home delivery and partnered with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen to donate over 40,000 meals to health care workers.

  • Chef Peter Hemsley of Palette in San Francisco launched Palette at Home, with a percentage of every order going to the Bay Area Arts Worker Relief Fund. Palette at Home offers an array of takeout and delivery options including menu items, pantry staples, farmers market finds, and special occasion and themed boxes, while the relief fund, administered by Independent Arts & Media, supports Bay Area visual artists in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Nationally renowned Porto’s Bakery, based in Los Angeles, has an impressive history of giving back and has drastically increased its efforts during the pandemic with an outpouring of donated meals to impacted communities. Recipients include frontline healthcare workers at more than 30 Los Angeles-area medical and nursing facilities, Union Rescue Mission, and the families of critically ill children at the Ronald McDonald Los Angeles House. “Donde comen dos, pueden comer tres,” says Porto’s founder, Rosa Porto. “Where two can eat, so can three.”

  • During a particularly difficult time for Concord, CA, Concord Tap House and owner Keith Burks and his team filled plates with house favorites like smoked chicken and grilled brisket to serve hundreds of frontline workers from Concord fire stations, Contra Costa County Health Services, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties, the Concord Police Department, and Department of Veterans Affair Hospital in nearby Martinez. Concord Tap House also provided meals to Concord's homeless and volunteers at homeless programs.

  • At the doorstep of Yosemite National Park, Château du Sureau, a Relais & Châteaux property, and the Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club collaborated to sponsor meals for Madera County families of teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store workers and law enforcement. Chef Rob Snyder prepared masterful meals with locally grown ingredients, as well as pantry boxes filled with staples senior groups and others in need. This act of kindness also supported farms and purveyors of goods that regularly deliver to Château du Sureau’s highly regarded Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant.

  • Rio Grill in Carmel, and Montrio Bistro and Tarpy’s Roadhouse in Monterey launched a 60-day fundraiser in support of the Food Bank for Monterey County, which has faced growing demand due to the pandemic. Its “Pick It Up, Pay It Forward” campaign will give 10% of all proceeds from takeout orders to the food bank through Sept. 30, 2020. Owners Ken and Mona Donkersloot hope to raise $20,000 and will donate an additional $5,000 if the goal is met.

  • Brett Brenzer, owner of Farm and Flour, reached out to author Jelani Memory, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, to learn how his business could best support the movement and help local families start the conversation regarding racism. To get local families talking, Farm and Flour gave out free physical copies of “A Kids Book About Racism,” written by Memory. 


Products with Perks

  • When Local Food Adventures had to stop its award-winning food tours, the company continued to support the Oakland and East Bay’s food community with curated gift boxes of favorite items from its tours. Each Local Love Gift Box generates a $2 donation, with $1 supporting the Alameda County Community Food Bank and $1 supporting East Bay FeedER, a new non-profit that is purchasing meals from local, independently-owned restaurants to deliver to five East Bay hospitals.

  • Napa Valley winery BRAND has introduced a giveback program, #FromBRANDwithLove. The program allows wine lovers to recognize the selfless service of first responders across the country. With the purchase of a $150 BRAND Care Package (a $300 value), customers will receive a bottle of 2016 BRAND Napa Valley BRIO Red Blend and gift a bottle to a first responder of their choosing. Customers simply purchase the package online, nominate a first responder and craft a personalized note — BRAND will take care of the rest.

  • Team members from the spa at the historic Santa Barbara hotel Belmond El Encanto are hand-sewing masks for frontline workers. Stella Gabriel and daughter Shannon Coburn teamed up with Spa Manager Clarice Major in the Most Mask Maker Challenge, organized by Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. Clarice utilized her skills as a theater costume maker to complete 20 masks in one weekend, and Stella and Shannon continue to sew masks for the community. Additionally, Belmond El Encanto has donated linens to the mask-making effort of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade.

  • Benicia Plein Air Gallery artists have produced remarkable paintings during the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of their gallery — and now their art is supporting COVID-19 relief. The artists will contribute a portion of the purchase price of designated paintings from this period to a COVID-19 relief charity. Dozens of paintings are available through the Benicia Plein Air Gallery website and brick-and-mortar storefront.

  • When local businesses came together to fight for racial justice and education in San Luis Obispo lifestyle boutique Blackwater stepped up to join. In June, the eclectic mother-daughter owned store led a giveaway contest to raise money for local racial justice organization, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO. The organization has the stated mission, “to center the lived experiences of Black and other People of Color through anti-racism education and cultural projects.” The effort raised just shy of $10,000 and included prizes donated by more than 500 local businesses.


Keeping Californians Working

  • Catalina Island is helping restaurants grappling with COVID-19 restrictions to expand outdoor dining and stay open. The City of Avalon teamed up with Love Catalina Island, the official tourism authority for Catalina, to create guidelines that have made it possible for many restaurants to stay in business and support staff. New protocols for outdoor dining allow restaurants to set up tables directly on the beach from 5-11 p.m. and allow booths for fast pick-up to operate between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Hotels are treating guests to patio and rooftop melas with spectacular views and appropriate socially distancing.

  • When the pandemic forced Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite to shut down for three months, it left lodge staff and youth interns with few options for basic needs. Through the closure, the Certified B Corporation provided free housing, meal services and activities to staff and interns — many left with few options for basic needs in Yosemite’s remote western mountain area. At the same time, Company leadership also championed protocols for responsibly reopening operations for the region and access to Yosemite National Park in an effort to get its employees back to work.

  • The community of Paso Robles quickly pivoted in response to the pandemic mandates to support local restaurants, wineries and businesses. The city’s iconic Downtown City Park now offers private, safely distanced farmhouse-style tables with bistro lighting Thursday-Sunday, providing a comfortable space to enjoy takeout, wine, beer and cocktails. Paso has also banded together to increase the dining and tasting space for downtown businesses with parklets extending into the streets for beautiful summer nights al fresco.

  • Four local stay-at-home moms formed the community Facebook group ALL IN Monterey to connect locals with volunteer opportunities during the pandemic. The group was started after realizing that there were new restrictions placed on area nonprofit organizations. The group, which now counts a membership of 2,000 volunteers, touts a no-stress giving policy to reinforce that any donation of time or money is vital, no matter the size. ALL IN has distributed thousands of meals to churches, shelters, family centers and schools.

  • To provide more space for businesses to expand their services and promote physical distancing the City of San Luis Obispo launched “Open SLO.” The program provides free metered parking and parking spaces solely for food and retail pick-up orders, and further, has closed large blocks of the downtown streets and is activating the iconic Mission Plaza for additional outdoor dining. Local firm Souza Construction set up the concrete barricades to Open SLO, which it is donating free of charge for as long as the program is needed.



Facing Fires Together

  • Sonoma Family Meal is currently serving more than 1,000 chef-made meals per day to evacuees of the 2020 wildfires raging in Sonoma County and throughout the Bay Area. The organization – made up of a network of chefs, farmers and food producers – is dedicated to fighting food insecurity in disasters. As well as serving those impacted by evacuations, Sonoma Family Meal is supporting local restaurants, caterers and farmers who have been devastated by COVID-19-related closures by paying them to prepare these important meals.

  • In Sonoma County, the “Food to Firefighters” campaign has raised nearly $40,000 to help local restaurants feed firefighters battling local fires and distribute important gear such as masks, water bottles, socks and soap. The campaign was started as a partnership between the Healdsburg Running Company (HRC) and the Sunrise Rotary Club of Healdsburg. Monetary donations have come from appreciative citizens across the county, and local restaurants have donated pre-made meals, sandwiches, baked goods, and countless burritos for local and mutual aid first responder crews.

  • More than 25 hotels in Napa Valley are opening their doors to provide rooms for evacuees, firefighters and other first responders. Working with the Red Cross and Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), hotels are providing the lowest available rates to all guests, as well as special rates for first responders.

  • Chris Kollar, chef/owner of Kollar Chocolates in Yountville, won the inaugural Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off benefit event supporting the Napa Valley Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. The virtual event took place on August 23 at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia and raised approximately $170,000 with donations still coming in. In this friendly competition, Kollar bested chef/owner Elizabeth Binder of Hand-Crafted Catering. Both chefs sourced their ingredients from the merchants at Oxbow Public Market. The live-streamed competition was hosted by KCBS’ Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem and judges were chef Ken Frank of La Toque, chef/owner Anita Cartagena of Protéa in Yountville and chef/owner Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen.

  • Two of California’s legendary surf and skate companies are donating clothing and shoes to those impacted by the fires in Santa Cruz County. O'Neill Wetsuits, based in Santa Cruz, was unable to hold its annual Memorial Day and Labor Day parking lot sales this year due to the pandemic, so the company decided to donate all the clothing they would normally sell over the holiday weekend events to those affected by the fire. Iconic skate shoe company Vans Off the Wall, based in Orange County, dropped into the action by sending a truckload of clothing and shoes to go along with the donation. 

  • Santa Cruz photographer September Wren (Meg Venter), whose photos have been used to showcase Santa Cruz in places from local print publications to Pottery Barn stores, is sending a set of her photos to anyone donating $50 or more to a GoFundMe campaign. Social media followers can find a list of campaigns benefiting Santa Cruz families in need on the photographer’s Instagram page, then share a screen shot of their donation to receive a set of four photos, each reflecting Santa Cruz’s natural beauty.

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.

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