Valerie Nicholson-Watson is barely six months into her position as president and CEO of Harvesters-The Community Food Network, but the Lee’s Summit resident is not new to the organization.
Nicholson-Watson rejoined the food bank as its leader last July after a stint as president and CEO of the Niles Home for Children in Kansas City. She was Harvesters’ director of community services prior to her position at the Niles Home and spent six years on Harvesters board of directors.
That past experience has paid off quite well for the former journalist and communications professional.
“The first six months have gone well,” Nicholson-Watson said Jan. 15. “Because I have been involved with Harvesters for over 15 years – it’s not as if I came in cold turkey, so to speak, but certainly the view from the CEO chair is a lot different than the other views that I had as an employee or as a board member. It’s been interesting getting to know the people who do the real work here at Harvesters and that is our staff.”
Harvesters and other entities including Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, are gearing up for the fifth annual Kansas City Restaurant Week Jan. 17-26. The event is a fundraiser for those organizations and features hundreds of restaurants in the Kansas City metro area, including Summit Grill and Bar, N.E. 4835 Lakewood Way in Lee’s Summit.
Participating eateries offer multiple-course lunches and dinners over the course of the 10-day period. Five percent of the price of each multi-course meal goes directly to Harvesters to help fight hunger in the Kansas City community.
In its first few years, Kansas City Restaurant Week has raised more than $362,000 for Harvesters, including almost $90,000 last year. The organization serves a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas as a regional Feeding America food bank.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Nicholson-Watson said of Restaurant Week. “I think one of the prides of Kansas City is our restaurants because they are so varied. For them to have such a commitment to hunger relief, it just really shows the good corporate citizens that they are. We received $89,000 last year and that feeds a lot of people.
“It absolutely helps the cause. I was looking at the list of restaurants that are participating and it’s so interesting that these are volunteers and donors and they thank us for what we do. Before we can thank them, they thank us and I think that just shows they are so committed to hunger relief. This metropolitan area we are really one big community and we know that hunger knows no boundaries. We have hunger here in Lee’s Summit, in Missouri, in Kansas; it’s heartwarming to know that people are devoted to making a difference in supporting hunger relief efforts.”
Summit Grill and Bar partner Andy Lock said the nearly year-and-a-half-old restaurant is using Restaurant Week as not only a way to give back, but also an opportunity to show off the culinary skills of partner/chef Domhnall Molloy and his kitchen crew.
“First of all, it’s a great benefit,” Lock said. “We like to help outside our four walls when we can. That’s what we have been based on since the day we opened our doors. There are a lot of positives; one, you’re helping the community and two, it’s great for your business. We love to help our community when we can.”
Lock added Summit Grill and Bar will offer discounted deals throughout Restaurant Week, including a three-course lunch and as well as a four-course dinner.
“A lot of restaurants are doing two, but we’re doing three,” Lock said of the lunch options. “We wanted to show a lot of value and we wanted to show our stuff. All of our courses here are so good we didn’t want anybody at lunch to miss out.”
For more information on Harvesters, Restaurant Week or to view the list of restaurants participating, visit the events calendar at www.harvesters.org. Reservations are highly recommended and strongly encouraged at Summit Grill and Bar and the other participating restaurants.