February 26, 2014 10:09:41 AM
The Homeward Bound Project of Mississippi, Starkville Pregnancy Care Center and Mississippi State University's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability will compete for a combined $6,500 in donations during this year's Starkville Restaurant Week, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership announced Tuesday.
Members of the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau picked the three finalists last week for the second annual Restaurant Week's charity aspect out of about 500 unique nominations that collectively backed about 35 charities, GSDP CEO Jennifer Gregory said.
Now, the three finalists will begin drumming up support for ballots -- and Restaurant Week in general -- through social media and grassroots efforts.
This year's event is scheduled for March 17-23, the week following spring break. Launched last year, Restaurant Week targets Mississippi residents who live within a 60-mile radius -- about an hour's drive -- and attempts to bring them to Starkville, show off the city's culinary offerings and plant the seed for future trips.
The Partnership also created a friendly competition between local charities for a cash donation to help bring more diners to local restaurants. Each time a patron orders an entree from a participating business, he or she is allowed to vote for one of the three charity finalists.
Cadence Bank will again sponsor Restaurant Week's $5,000 first place prize, but the Partnership also secured local funding for second- and third-place prizes. SGK Landscapes Inc. and Insurance Associates will donate $1,000 and $500 respectively to the runner ups.
Last year, Sally Kate Winters Family Services, Oktibbeha County Humane Society and the Reclaimed Project -- all Golden Triangle-specific charities -- competed for the $5,000 prize. The winner, OCHS, declined to compete again this year.
Since 2007, the Homeward Bound Project of Mississippi has saved more than 3,000 animals' lives by transporting them from state shelters to adoption-guaranteed rescue locations in the Northeast. The organization is mostly supported by those who work at or attend MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Starkville Pregnancy Center is a faith-based organization that provides expecting parents free services and resources, such as counseling and tests.
T.K. Martin Center staff members work to "remove limitations through the application of assistive technology, allowing individuals to participate in educational, vocational and leisure activities to the fullest degree they choose," its website states.
"We are really excited that we can add three new charities to restaurant week this year. These three all had extremely strong nominations and are clearly all very important to our community," Gregory said. "We are looking forward to exposing the greater Starkville community and the Golden Triangle to these local charities, and we're even more excited to see how they will promote the 'get out and vote' campaign to their supporters. It's a win-win-win for our restaurants, the charities and our communities."
Last year's event was measured financially when Starkville recorded its second-highest March in regard to 2 percent food and beverage tax returns. The city previously averaged about $132,000 in those returns until it collected $142,697.36 in 2013. The increase represented an 11.52 percent boost in 2 percent revenues from March 2012. Many restaurant owners and managers estimated they saw a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in business last year.
The Partnership specifically targeted the week following spring break for Restaurant Week in order to drive sales in an otherwise slow period of time.
A portion of 2 percent revenues return to the city; the remaining monies are split between various organizations, including tourism initiatives, Starkville Parks and MSU student programs.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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