The Max Cares Foundation has donated $25,000 to assist unemployed hospitality workers, and held a distribution Thursday at Max Burger in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
Max Restaurant Group partners, managers, and chefs weren’t greeting patrons, cooking up fabulous meals, or serving diners in their Hartford area restaurants last week, but instead, with their establishments shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were handing out 500 bags full of groceries and other staples to temporarily unemployed hospitality workers.
“I got here about 20 minutes before 1, and I saw the line was already out of the parking lot,” said Bobby Venetianer, director of community outreach for Max Restaurant Group.
The distribution of groceries was held Thursday from 1-3 p.m. at Max Burger on LaSalle Road in West Hartford. By 1:30, Venetianer said, about 400 bags had been handed out.
An executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont prohibited on-premise dining in the state’s restaurants as of March 16. Max Restaurant Group remained open for take-out and delivery for several weeks after that, but on March 31 announced plans to temporarily close completely with the exception of providing take-out meals for Passover and Easter, stating: “Although we have practiced increased efforts in sanitizing and cleaning, we feel that it is best to eliminate interactions with the public and with each other.”
The week before they closed, Max Restaurant Group held a fundraiser to benefit its own employees, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of gift cards over the course of several days being placed in a relief fund.
The Max Cares Foundation event was for all hospitality workers – not just those from Max establishments.
In total, 504 bags were packed full of groceries and staples in advance by volunteers on Wednesday to be handed out Thursday, said Hunter Morton, culinary director for Max Restaurant Group. He said each person who attended the distribution would be given a bag that included chicken stock, macaroni and cheese, two cereals, yogurt, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, potatoes, onions, celery, apples, and oranges.
“And a roll of toilet paper,” Morton added.
The toilet paper was procured through Standard Paper, the staples were purchased at Big Y, and the produce was from Sardilli’s, said Maura Horan, secretary of the Max Cares Foundation, who was also helping hand out bags.
Horan said the Foundation had donated $25,000 to assist unemployed hospitality workers – those who work in restaurants as well as hotels in the area. “This is just round one,” she said.
The Foundation is funded through private donations as well as from the Max Golf Classic fundraiser held each September and the Roast for the Holidays in December. The Foundation typically donates to soup kitchens and awards scholarships for those pursuing careers in the hospitality industry.
“Our mission is broad enough – to serve the underserved in Hartford and Springfield,” Horan said, and taking care of those who are currently unemployed fits into that mission.
“This is such a heartbreaking time for many people,” Horan said. “There are so many unemployed, and the hospitality industry has been hit very hard. This is one way we can help … it’s a very big need.”
“What a great day,” said Matt Kerin, treasurer of the Max Cares Foundation and also a West Hartford resident. The ability to commit $25,000 to assist unemployed hospitality workers through giving out groceries is tremendous, he said, and the next best thing to giving out cash.
“We will continue to do it until the money is spent, to anybody in the hospitality industry,” said Kerin. He said the next distribution will be announced shortly.
In Connecticut, Kerin said, about 10% of the economy is comprised of hospitality.
Decked out in masks, every managing partner of a Hartford-area Max restaurant assisted at the distribution Thursday, along with many of the managers, chefs, directors, and members of the Max Cares Foundation.
Pictured in the photo of the entire group are:
Max Cares Foundation
- Maura Horan, Secretary
- Tim Buckley, VP
- Matt Kerin, Treasurer
- Brad Karsky – Managing Partner – Max a Mia Ristorante, Avon
- Steven Abrams – Managing Partner – Max Downtown, Hartford (also on the Board of Directors of the Max Cares Foundation)
- Bob Cooke – Managing Partner – Max’s Oyster Bar , West Hartford
- Chris Torla – Managing Partner/Executive Chef – Trumbull Kitchen, Hartford
- David Mascolo – General Manager – Trumbull Kitchen, Hartford
- John Thomas – Managing Partner – Max’s Tavern, Springfield, MA
- Brian Costa – Managing Partner – Max Fish, Glastonbury
- Doug Kelly – Managing Partner – Max Burger, West Hartford
- Tim Taillefer – Managing Partner – Max Burger, Longmeadow, MA
- Mike Oliver – General Manager – Savoy Pizzeria, West Hartford
- Scott Smith – Managing Partner/COO – Max Restaurant Group
- Bobby Venetianer – Director of Community Outreach, Max Restaurant Group
- Hunter Morton – Culinary Director, Max Restaurant Group
- Brian Mitchell – Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group
- Amy Bombard – Director of Sales, Max Catering & Events
- Steve Michalewicz – Executive Chef, Max Catering & Events
- Brett Cook, Executive Chef, Max Burger, West Hartford
- Julia Rosenthal, Restaurant Manager, Max Downtown
- Jules Bonee, Restaurant Manager, Max Burger, West Hartford
- Jamie Pinto, Restaurant Manager, Max Burger, West Hartford
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