On Sept. 30, 2014, Ben Gavartin, a seventh-grader from Scottsdale, Arizona, and student at Veritas Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Arizona, will be ready to give back to his community in an ambitious and delicious way!
Ben’s Mitzvah Project, “Ben Feeds Back” is turning a large homeless shelter into a 5-star restaurant.
With the help of his family, friends and generous local merchants they will transform the United Methodist Outreach Missions (UMOM) cafeteria into an upscale restaurant. A great menu, beautiful linens, music and waiter service are all on tap enabling these families to have a wonderful dining experience.
We asked Ben a few questions to learn more:
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project?
BG: I love food and I love helping people. I came up with the upscale version of feeding the homeless for my Mitzvah Project. I am a foodie and enjoy dining out with my family. I realized that many people don’t have the same opportunities so I wanted to share a surprise fine dining experience with UMOM families. UMOM is an outstanding organization that helps more homeless families in Arizona than any other organization.
MM: Can you tell us what type of experience you will be giving these families?
BG: This year, UMOM is celebrating its 50th anniversary and I want to surprise 200 homeless men, women and children at UMOM New Day Centers with a three-course, gourmet meal. When families walk in, they will be greeted by a host and seated as if they’re in a restaurant. Tables will be covered in linens and flowers. There will be live music. Families will be waited on by servers. They will have a salad, short ribs in pasta and dessert. I don’t have dessert donated yet, so I am still looking for a bakery to make 200 individual fancy desserts.
MM: You have an amazing Website, how else are you spreading the word?
BG: Companies that have signed on to help. We just got word that Pepsi is going to provide the beverages!! In addition, Local One helped build my website, Benfeedsback.com. I write blog updates and monitor other social media accounts and e-mail daily. Tempe-based Creative Occasions, an event decor company, is donating the linens and other props for the dining room. McCelendon’s Select will donate almost all the produce, Rocking R Farms and Circle Key Farms are donating all the short ribs. Chef Eddie Matney of Eddie’s House, agreed to run the kitchen that night. Several servers have volunteered to be the evening’s wait staff. I reach out to all my supporters regularly and ask them to help spread the word. I have been lucky with lots of local media coverage as well.
MM: What does it mean for your family to be involved in Ben Feeds Back?
BG: It took a lot of steps at first. I had to ask lots of people to help me, research homeless shelters and try to find a location, design a website, and much more. When I asked Chef Matney to help me, I told him I still didn’t have a location yet. I went with my mom to see a few shelters and spoke to lots, but none were the right fit. Chef Matney gave us a contact at UMOM. I want to make people feel happy and that there is hope. These kids and their families never get to go out for food or do nice things. I wanted to make them feel special.
MM: What else do we need to know?
BG: There are many ways people can help!
One: Help spread the word. Post my website, benfeedsback.com to your Facebook page and share it with all of your friends. The more people who know about this, the more donations I can get for UMOM.
Two: Be cool and make a donation through my Website to UMOM. You can get a dollar for dollar tax credit up to $400 if you select the working poor tax credit. That means your money can go to UMOM instead of your taxes to the state of Arizona. I have a goal of $25,000 and I have raised $8,094 so far!!
Three: I am still in need of the following items: 600 stems of random flowers, a bakery for individual desserts for 200 people, a bakery for dinner rolls for 200 people, fancy plastic plates, silverware and glasses.