Last year, Joe Ritchey was looking for ways to raise money for the Nature House, a year-round nature education center to be built on the existing 72-acre Walker Nature Education Center site.
Little did he know that the idea for what would turn out to be the project’s biggest single fundraiser would originate from a local restaurant.
Last year, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant expressed interest in finding a way to use its facilities to help out.
“They approached us,” said Ritchey, immediate past president of the Friends of Reston. “They asked us, ‘What could we do to help you raise money for this project?’”
What transpired after that was five months of planning for a Fish & Chips Texas Hold 'Em tournament held last October at the restaurant. The event raised $45,000 for the Nature House.
“It was a tremendous financial success and a lot of fun,” said Ritchey, adding that it wouldn’t have been possible without the initiative of McCormick & Schmick’s.
The restaurant has already said it would like to offer its facilities each year for the event, making it an annual fundraiser. This year’s goal is $90,000.
IT HASN’T TAKEN local organizations long to notice McCormick & Schmick’s, and its sister restaurant M & S Grill, commitment to Reston.
The restaurants often go out of their way to offer food, facilities, helpful employees and contributions — in cash and in-kind — to numerous local community organizations, including Reston Interfaith, the YMCA, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Reston Arts Center and Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.
“Since they opened their doors at Reston Town Center, McCormick & Schmick’s has been active in the community,” Ritchey said.
For building a tradition of giving back, the two restaurants were named a 2006 Best of Reston award winner last January.
The Best of Reston awards are given out each year by Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and presented to businesses, individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond in their service to improving the quality of life of those in the Reston community. The two restaurants and this year’s other award winners will be honored at the 15th Annual Best of Reston Gala on April 20.
“I was really surprised,” said Barry Hathaway, manager of McCormick & Schmick’s, who added that it was nice to be selected among the numerous deserving businesses and organizations in Reston.
Others in the business community have a slightly different view. Donna Miller of Miller Musmar, who nominated the restaurants for the award, said the restaurants “give all the time.”
“They’re just always there. I think that they’re unsung heroes because their work is not as visible,” said Miller.
FOR HATHAWAY and Dan Orris, manager of M & S Grill, the award is really a reflection of the restaurants’ founders, Bill McCormick and Doug Schmick. “It’s all about where our company started,” said Hathaway. “The founders of this company have always seen the value of giving back to the community.” It’s a “business operating procedure” that all the restaurants try to achieve, said Hathaway.
Just as the restaurants have a history of building relationships with its customers, it also builds relationships for giving.
When McCormick & Schmick’s began hosting the "Shuck & Putt" silent and live auction event to raise money to benefit breast cancer research, it started in the bar. Now, it takes up the entire restaurant, and last year, in addition with the golf tournament, raised $140,000.
Another project that has even area children cheering is the Virginia History Scavenger Hunt held at McCormick & Schmick’s for fourth graders at Buzz Aldrin. The restaurant, which is filled with pieces of Virginia-themed, historical artwork, opens its doors to the students in hopes of providing a lasting learning experience.
“It’s a fun way to review some of their Virginia history facts, and [the students] absolutely love the lunch,” said Buzz Aldrin Principal Marty Marinoff. “[The event] reflects the restaurant’s willingness to reach out to the community and schools, and support what we do,” said Marinoff.