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COOS BAY — Two local restaurants were recognized this week for providing meals to hundreds of community members in need during the new coronavirus pandemic.  

The Oregon Hospitality Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports charitable relief needs, education and training within state’s hospitality industry, announced Wednesday, May 27, its first round of financial awards to restaurants from throughout the state.  

According to a press release from OHF, a total of five restaurants were selected to receive the awards as a way for owners to continue their efforts in helping their community’s most vulnerable populations.  

Restaurant O and 7 Devils Brewing Company in Coos Bay were among the five restaurants awarded funds through OHF’s program for their commitment to make sure no one goes hungry in Coos County.

Dr. Kariktan Cruz, who co-owns Restaurant O with her husband Chef Eoghain O’Neill, said the, “Pay It Forward” program featured at the restaurant was created shortly after a number of anonymous donors reached out to them to give their support.

Looking to help the restaurant stay in business as well as to help feed first-responders and those suffering from food insecurity, Dr. Cruz said they were inspired to launch the “Pay It Forward” program and help others throughout the community.

The program works to feed local foster families, first-responders and other essential, frontline workers as well as children out of school who don’t have access to meals provided by schools, said Dr. Cruz.  

“We adopted the ‘Pay It Forward’ system because we felt so fortunate that people have supported us and in turn we wanted to support others who we knew would benefit from it,” said Dr. Cruz. “… The amazing thing is people have continued to support us in so many different ways and have continued to donate funds directly to our program.”

With the funds awarded from OHF, Dr. Cruz, a pediatrician, said the restaurant plans to continue to help children in need as well as the elderly community, which she holds close to her heart as her grandparents, who raised her, played a major role in her life. 

Restaurant owners Annie Pollard and Carmen Matthews, of 7 Devils Brewing Company, were also awarded funds from OHF for their “Community Meal Program” which helps provide meals to the homeless community, foster families and staff members laid off due to the pandemic.

After noticing much of its staff relied on meals provided by the restaurant, Pollard said they launched a meal program to help keep their staff fed who were laid off.

The program, which also received a lot of support from the community, provided 50 to 80 family-sized, take-and-bake meals to those who had not yet received their unemployment benefits, said Pollard. The program shifted its focus from jobless community members to foster families after folks were more financially stable.

According to Pollard, the restaurant is planning to use the funds provided by OHF to continue to deliver 25 meals a week to local foster families.

"We are indebted to our partner, Every Child Coos County, who provides support for local foster families and distributes the family meals we make each week,” said Pollard.

The restaurant is looking to do all that it can to continue its support for foster families undergoing hard times while schools and daycare facilities remain close, Pollard added.

“I’m just really proud of our community,” said Pollard. “I mean, all of our neighbors are just extremely generous and in a time of need everybody stepped up to help each other. It’s been really humbling and I’m really honored to be a part of this community.”

The OHF Hospitality Help Fund Restaurant Awards was made possible with support from the Grubhub Community Relief Fund and proceeds from OHF’s ongoing virtual “Takeout & A Movie” event. The fundraising event, which launched in May, was created to support restaurants in Oregon working to make a difference in their communities.  

According to a press release from OHF, funds from future virtual movie event will go toward supporting other initiatives such as culinary training programs. 

“Via a generous donation from the Grubhub Community Relief Fund, event ticket sales and money contributed from OHF, enough money was raised to fund an estimated 11,500 meals,” read the release. “The next movie in the series will be announced in June.”

Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-6039 or by email at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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