a charitable gesture on the edge of Silicon Valley

All You Can Eat, For A Good Cause

A storied restaurant works to serve victims of the Camp Fire

Nestled among the redwoods in the hills above Silicon Valley is an unassuming restaurant that has become a favorite stop over the years for locals as well as tourists cruising Skyline Drive south from San Francisco, or the occasional stray driver headed west from Palo Alto out to San Gregorio beach. On most days, Alice’s Restaurant is a friendly place to stop for a hearty breakfast or burger—but on a few weekends a year, the owners and staff devote themselves to a different kind of service, turning the place into a locus for the surrounding community to come together to benefit a worthy cause.

This Tuesday, December 4, the restaurant will hold a family-style pasta dinner to benefit victims of the Camp Fire, the worst wildfire in California history, and one of the deadliest, which all but leveled the town of Paradise, near Chico, and destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings there and in surrounding communities.

“We live in a rural area similar to Paradise,” says Jamie Kerr, one of the restaurant’s owners. “One of my best friends was going to go up there and visit his family, and also visit his father’s grave site, and it really struck me that there was nothing left to go visit. It’s pretty traumatic.”

“We all take things for granted,” Kerr says. “And with my son being at Chico State and being close to the evacuation zone, we decided to do something.” What Alice’s will do is offer a free dinner to anyone who shows up to the restaurant that day between 3pm and 8pm, asking only that they donate if they can afford to. “People volunteer to help with serving food, and there’s no price. The goal is to have people be as generous as they want. There are no tickets to be bought, you can have anything you want. But we do recommend reservations.” 100 percent of the donations will go to the North Valley Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that works in the area affected by the fires.

“Everybody can make a difference, that’s the thing. It’s not that hard, and it sure feels good.”

For about the last ten years, the restaurant has held a Thanksgiving-season dinner to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank, but this year the event is being repurposed for victims of the fire. The goal, says Kerr, is to raise $20,000. Two other restaurants Kerr is affiliated with—the Lube Room Saloon in Dorrington, California, and Behans Irish Pub in nearby Burlingame, will also hold events to benefit fire victims that day, Kerr said.

“When we bought the business, we didn’t know where it was going to take us,” Kerr told Good Turns recently. “It turned out we had a great way to raise lots of money for different charitable events.” Kerr and his wife Rose also host a Christmas tree sale to benefit nearby La Honda Elementary School, and each October they festoon the place with pumpkins, which can be taken home for free, asking only that patrons leave a donation, however large or small, for the local school district.

Jamie and his brother Andy bought the restaurant in 2002 from a local family they had known for many years, according to Rose Kerr. The building was originally a general store that served loggers working the surrounding hills, but has been a restaurant since the 1950s. In the 1960s, a woman named Alice Taylor bought the restaurant and renamed it after the Arlo Guthrie song. (The restaurant has changed hands a number of times since then.)

“We have a really great small community up here,” Rose Kerr said. “During the week we have most of the locals come. We have a whole street in back of Alice’s that reserve a table every Friday, and we have a group from La Honda, which is the next town over toward the beach, and they reserve a table every Friday. We see these people on a regular basis, and Jamie sort of came up with the idea one day. He thought it would be a perfect venue to use as a community gathering such as this fundraiser, and it’s been great, because our community is so supportive.”

Jamie Kerr says he never expected to be giving away dinners for charity at Alice’s when he bought the place. “But it was one of the benefits of being able to make a difference,” he said. “You think about your life, and what you do in life. You think about the fact that a small family-run business can have a big impact. We’re community-based, and that’s our first priority, but we also can do things like this, where we can bring people together to raise desperately needed funds for people in need.”

“I really feel like you get what you give. I learned that a long time ago: the more you give, the more you get. We’ve been fortunate enough that it’s come back to us. Everybody can make a difference, that’s the thing. Everybody can go out and do something like this. It’s not that hard, and it sure feels good. There’s so many good things in the world that we do, and this is much more gratifying than going shopping for clothes or something.”

We couldn’t agree more. See you at Alice’s.

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