While students frequent the Main Street bars and restaurants for their food and atmosphere, they now have a new reason to head to downtown.
Through the Dine and Donate program, patrons can donate to several charities within the University of Michigan Health System at local bars.
From July 2013 to June 2014, diners at Main Street eateries have been invited to add a donation of any amount to the bottom of their checks, which will be donated in full to UMHS. The participating bars and restaurants include Lena, Habana, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Old German, Blue Tractor BBQ and Brewery, Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery and Mash. Each month a different charity within UMHS will be chosen.
Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell, co-owners of all of the restaurants involved, are the driving force behind the program. Carlson said they chose the 12 receiving foundations based on both necessity and personal interests, with their focus main set on childrens’ health. Accordingly, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is well-represented, as four months of the program have been dedicated to different Mott programs.
“We were pretty easy targets — he has two kids, and I have three,” Carlson said. “I think it made us suckers. It’s so easy to see the help that you can give to little kids.”
While they said they have held many philanthropic events to support the Ann Arbor community, this event is their first attempt at a year long, interconnected fundraiser. Lobdell said with all of the standalone events he and Carlson were hosting to support UMHS, it made more sense to do one big event.
“We were just doing individual efforts with people we knew, with a lot of it focused on U of M Hospital,” Lobdell said. “Finally, they actually came together and said ‘we’re all talking to them separately … why don’t we all work together?’”
Supplementing Dine and Donate, Carlson and Lobdell have held extra promotions to support certain charities they feel a connection with.
University alum Charles Woodson, a former football player and Heisman Trophy Winner who now plays in the NFL, started the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund with a $2 million donation to Mott. During the month supporting Woodson’s fund, Carlson and Lobdell served a special “Woodson Burger” at each participating restaurant. For every Woodson Burger sold in October, $2 went to support his fund. Lobdell said the burgers sold were based on Woodson’s own preferences.
“We talked with him and found out what types of burgers that he likes, and then challenged each of the chefs to, from his inspiration, create their own version of a Charles Woodson burger.” Lobdell said. “It was a fun addition to the other program.”
To get Dine & Donate up and running, Carlson and Lobdell worked closely with Dina Kutinsky, assistant director for development, women and children’s health at UMHS. Kutinsky said the choices of foundations for Dine and Donate span the healthcare system, and the fundraiser is meant in part to raise awareness.
“The program is built to really educate and to create awareness.” Kutinsky said. “So not only to raise money, but so people know that these funds are out there.”
Kutinsky said he hopes Dine and Donate would continue after its yearlong term ends in June. She said she, Carlson, Lobdell and others will cooperate to work out kinks in the project.
“Next year, hopefully, we’ll look at the whole program, and see which ones worked, which ones didn’t, which ones need more attention.” Kutinsky said. “We’re really testing the waters. I think if they keep doing it it’ll get bigger and bigger.”