National Restaurant Association Presents 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Award

Award recognizes excellence in community service among restaurant operators.

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The National Restaurant Association recognized four restaurant operators with its Restaurant Neighbor Award, which celebrates outstanding charitable service efforts restaurateurs perform in their communities.

This year's winners are: ARAMARK, headquartered in Philadelphia, in the large business category; Taste Buds Management in New Orleans, in the mid-size business category; and King Eider's Pub and Restaurant in Damariscotta, Maine, in the small business category. Tammy and Noel Cunningham, owners of Denver's Strings Restaurant, are this year's Cornerstone Humanitarians.

Large business – ARAMARK, Philadelphia, Pa.: Launched in 2008, the ARAMARK Building Community program helps families in underserved communities across the United States and beyond by providing funds, volunteers, programs and professional services to strengthen community centers. To date, ARAMARK has contributed more than $7 million through grants, product donations and 15,000 employees volunteering their time to help the community.

Mid-size business – Taste Buds Management, New Orleans: After back-to-back tornadoes hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011, New Orleans-based chefs Greg Reggio, Hans Limburgh and Gary Darling launched Three Chefs One Mission. Remembering the help they received after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, these restaurateurs wanted to respond in kind. The goal of the nonprofit is to serve hot meals to victims whenever or wherever disaster strikes.

Small business - King Eider's Pub and Restaurant, Damariscotta, Maine: When Todd Maurer heard that some of his neighbors might go without heat because of the high cost of oil, he and two business associates formed the Community Energy Fund. Launched in 2005, Maurer enlisted the help of the entire community, including joining forces with other local restaurants to form "Dine in Damariscotta," which offers a share of its proceeds to the fund. The organization, which also provides gas cards to citizens, has raised nearly $400,000 to date and has kept 1,200 families warm.

Cornerstone Humanitarian - Noel and Tammy Cunningham, Strings Restaurant, Denver: In 2003, Noel and Tammy Cunningham created the Cunningham Foundation to help the impoverished people of Ethiopia. To date, they have raised $750,000 for impoverished Ethiopians.

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