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From chili cook-offs to senior gift drives, ‘tis the season for a renewed sense of civic pride.

Giancarlo Gonzalez December 4th, 2013

The holiday season has arrived. Along with cold weather, family time and tons of shopping comes a renewed sense of civic duty and helpfulness toward neighbors who are less fortunate.

HiLo bartender Topher Sauceda
Photo: Mark Hancock

One such event is Saturday’s annual chili cook-off at HiLo Club, 1221 NW 50th St., to benefit Other Options Inc.

“[It] was originally put together by longtime patrons and friends of the HiLo, Kendall Simpkins and Tracy Lansing,” said bartender Topher Sauceda.

“For four years now, we have about 16 participants that bring some great chili to the table. All proceeds, including entry fees, tasting ticket sales and donations go to benefit Other Options Inc. Participants receive a trophy for placements and a year of bragging rights.”

Thousands of dollars have been raised, he said, noting that last year, HiLo patrons and participants “adopted” 25 families and supplied items on their Christmas wish lists “that consists of anything from housewares to needed clothing.”


Paying it forward 

S&B’s Burger Joint has five locations in Oklahoma, and each one contributes 10 percent of its sales to a different nonprofit every Tuesday. Serving burgers since 2009, S&B’s has been doing this charitable work, “Pay It Forward,” since its inception.

The program gives local nonprofits a chance to set up a table at the restaurant and talk to diners about their organization and the work they do. Lauren Meyer, general manager of the 5929 N. May Ave. location, sees how organizations can help their cause by educating customers.

“I feel like every time they have more information for somebody to see and read, guests are more willing to give,” Meyer said. “When guests come in and realize that 10 percent of the sales for the day go to the selected charity, they’ll frequently buy more or donate cash directly to the nonprofit.”


Giving back 

Mouthwatering crab cake is a signature at Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine, and so is giving back to the community. The owners, managers and staff have been recognized for their outstanding and continual giving, most recently receiving last year’s Most Charitable Influence award for a small business from The Journal Record.

Lauren Meyer, S&B Burger Joint
Photo: Mark Hancock

“It’s part of our makeup, philosophically, to give back when we can,” said chef Bruce Rinehart.

This winter, Rococo’s Northpark Mall location is hosting a Toys for Tots event and is working with a group of local restaurants to provide two local shelters with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Each restaurant gives a course to create an entire meal for more than 300 people.

Rococo also will donate a percentage of its sales to Calm Waters Center for Children and Families.

“Spiritually, Rococo has been very involved with the community since we opened 10 years ago,” Rinehart said.


‘The holidays can be difficult’ 

Hyde & Company CPAs, a full-service accounting firm in Oklahoma City, gets involved with Santa for Seniors as its way of giving back to the community. The program helps low-income seniors who don’t have family to look after them.

Nancy Hyde, CEO and managing shareholder, thinks many seniors are overlooked.

“One year, my daughter and I went and visited a retired Methodist minister [and his wife] who lived in a very rundown area of Midwest City,” Hyde said. “He was restricted to a wheelchair, and she couldn’t see. When we visited him and delivered the modest gifts that they asked for, he said, ‘We really appreciate this. The other day, someone broke into our home and stole our computer, but we’re just fortunate that you all have chosen us to do something for.’ It doesn’t seem like enough.”

The ability to help on any scale gives hope to building a feeling of community.

“I think holidays can be very difficult for a lot of people,” Hyde said, “and I think it’s great that this program exists to fill that void.”

 
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