A Few Oregon Restaurants To Donate a Portion of Veteran’s Day Sales to Returning Veterans Project

–By Emily Anderson

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and while Oregonians will be celebrating in many ways, there are a handful of Oregon restaurants that are participating in what is known as Chow Down for Vets, a community event created by a Portland, Ore.-based non-profit called Returning Veterans Project. If anyone eats at the participating restaurants tomorrow, each restaurant will donate a portion of their days’ sales to Returning Veterans Project.


Pastini Pastaria, a popular Oregon Italian-themed restaurant chain, will be donating a portion of each sale to the Returing Veterans Project, according to their blog. Pastini Pastaria will “also be offering a free entree to every current service member and veteran on Veteran’s Day along with a big ‘thank you!’ from all of us at Pastini.” According to their website, in order to receive a free entree, any veteran or current service member will simply have to let his or her server know. Other participating eateries are On Deck Sports Bar and Grill (located in downtown Portland), 12 Bridge Ciderworks in Oregon City, and The Pit Stop Sports Bar andd BBQ Grill in Beaverton.


The mission of Returning Veterans Project is to provide free health services for veterans who have served in the military after Sept. 11, 2001 and their families who live in Oregon and Southwest Washington state. According to their website, “Returning Veterans Project fulfills its mission by recruiting, training and supporting a volunteer healthcare network of more than 335 licensed independent mental health and somatic practitioners, healthcare clinic providers and equine therapy projects. To become an R.V.P. provider, each practitioner must be licensed in good standing, complete our application / orientation process and agree to deliver only pro bono mental health and somatic services (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic care and more) to post-9/11 war zone veterans, service members and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.”


Mike McCarrel is the director of operations at Returning Veterans Project. When asked about what he enjoys most about working here, he says that “R.V.P. [provides] the opportunity to connect the military community to the civilian community. Our whole model is based on asking volunteer professionals, the majority of which are not veterans, to volunteer a slot of their [health] practice to a post 9/11 veteran or a family member. This creates a space not only to provide needed services to veterans and their families, it also creates an avenue for people from very different backgrounds to connect and support each other in their local communities.”

He’s not sure yet if he can make it to Pastini Pastaria, but he will try. He also may grab a beer from On Deck Sports Bar and Grill, a new partner that joined forces with his organization last year. Jeff, of 12Bridge Ciderworks & Taproom, will donate 15 percent of all cider sales to the Returning Veterans Project. Jeff served as a Marine Corps reservist for six years.


“I have a special place in my heart for those who serve in combat” he said. “They need all the help we can provide.”


Veteran’s Day became a legal holiday declared by the U.S. government on May 13, 1938, but the idea behind honoring war heroes started on November 11, 1918. The World War 1 armistice (temporary halting of fighting) was on November 11, 1918 and lasted about seven months before the war officially ended. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day as a day to celebrate and honor those who served in the war. Throughout time, Veteran’s Day (when it became a legal holiday) became a way of the U.S. government and fellow Americans to recognize those who served in both world wars and then, as of June 1954, the government voted to change the phrase from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day as a way to honor those who served in the Korean war. Since then, Veteran’s Day is a way to honor all of those who served in any U.S. war.


So come down, chow down and know that by simply eating a meal, you are helping a worthy non-profit provide free health care services to worthy veterans.

 

Pasta Gardner’s Jeff Gardner Builds Business With Lots of Hard Work, Fun and Creativity

-By Emily Anderson


With a dash of energy, a sprinkling of creativity, a dollop of hard work and lots of love, Jeff Gardner is a 34-year-old chef from Eugene, Ore. who is cooking up one awesome business. While growing his pasta business, aptly named Pasta Gardner, Jeff is reaping the rewards of his pasta garden empire-to-be that he has so earnestly worked hard to sew. Jeff is a friendly, lanky, smiling entrepreneur who is very proud to be doing what he’s doing.

Gardner has cooked in Napa Valley, Calif., Georgia, and Italy (where he attended a school called ItalCook) before coming back to live in Eugene. Gardner is a huge fan of Italy in general, and he loves cooking because it brings people together. He is a “certified sous chef,” which is a designation he opted to receive about three years ago from the American Culinary Federation – a membership-based organization that provides exams to chefs to prepare them for certification – to let people know  he can cook. Under one of his photos on his website reads the title “CHEF / PASTA-PRENEUR.” Perhaps his love of puns is why his business name works so well, or perhaps it’s his hard-working demeanor, but either way, a talented, hard working chef and businessman can and should deserve success.

In 2014 Jeff began selling his pasta which he makes from scratch using flour from a local mill and his own pasta maker. His seeds of hope began to sprout when his hobby-turned-passion came to fruition after spending several years perfecting his recipes before he found his perfect match in pasta heaven when he decided to use Camas Country Mill’s flour in his pasta noodles. But even then, it took him about a year of testing different Camas Country Mill’s flours to find the “right texture and bite,” as Gardner puts it.

Once this “aha!” moment came, he knew he was on to something. He realized he could bring his pastas to local farmer’s markets to see what other people thought. His dreams sprouted further in 2015 once he cooked for guests touring homes in the Tour of Homes tour (put on by the Home Builders Association of Lane County). As his web of culinary acquaintances grew, he received more offers to help cook at restaurants and events. He started selling his pasta at Eugene’s Saturday Market. A representative of Sundance Natural Foods tried Gardner’s pasta at Long’s Meat Market in Eugene, which is the first place Gardner sold his pasta. Then someone from The Kiva Grocery in Eugene tasted his stuff and as time went on, Gardner’s pasta business flourished. His pasta is also for sale at the Whole Foods Eugene location, as well as Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene. It’s like the movie Field of Dreams – If you Build It, He Will Come! But replace he with they, as in customers, and they have come. And as of this past spring, Gardner’s pasta is now sold in all Market of Choice grocery stores.


Gardner sells his fresh pasta at variety of farmers markets in Eugene and, more recently, the Portland region. Jeff connected with people at the Food Innovation Center in Portland. (The Food Innovation Center is part of the College of Agricultural Sciences of Oregon State University. This center helps people test and bring their products to market.) And as Jeff’s circle of friends grew into the Portland region, so did his ability to expand his sales reach. Customers can  purchase 10 types of pastas from his online store: https://www.pastagardner.com/store. A few restaurants also use his pastas in their establishments: MembrilloNoisette, and Party Downtown in Eugene and Homegrown Public House in Florence, Ore. He does not sell all 10 pastas at his farmer’s market tables nor in the stores that stock them. He sells only a few flavors. His favorite shape is the radiatore, and the first pasta he ever sold and pushed the most was the organic red wheat radiatore. “Radiatore” is the Italian word for radiator, and this fun pasta shape is named because it resembles small radiators.


Being busy and having fun is what attracts Jeff to cooking. He loves eating good food while socializing. He loves that foods connects people.

Gardner is often invited to help friends cook at private dinner parties. Most recently, he cooked at a dinner party on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Gran Moraine Winery in Yamhill, Ore. He has cooked at this winery over the years, on an as-needed basis.

Photo by Emily Anderson

Gardner likes to experiment with creative flavor profiles. He sells cricket-flavored pasta as well as cocoa-flavored pasta (sans crickets). He was recently featured on a local Eugene-area news channel’s segment called “In The Kitchen” in which he showed the host how to make a noodle kugel. (A kugel is a Jewish word used to describe a baked casserole that has pudding-like consistency.) In this segment, Gardner makes his own variation of a kugel with Pasta Gardner
cocoa pasta. The recipe can be found on the news site:

http://nbc16.com/features/in-the-kitchen/in-the-kitchen-pasta-gardners-cocoa-noodle-sweet-kugel.

His business associate is also a chef. Chef Clive Wanstall teaches culinary arts at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore and has since 1998. He’s just as friendly as Gardner, and the two make a great dream team. This is evident in the videos Gardner has shared on his Instagram and Facebook feed when the two of them demonstrate their pasta at Market of Choice grocery stores. Pasta Gardner makes its own bags and the logo is simple, yet well-designed.

Gardner is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, which was an academic cooking journey he embarked upon after receiving a scholarship. He attended Lane Community College when this opportunity arose and  Chef Wanstall gave Gardner friendly advice that he ought to take the opportunity in New York. Chef Wanstall is a long-time friend and mentor.

Gardner’s been a vendor at the Portland Saturday Market, which is held in downtown Portland every Saturday most of the year (March through December 24). Jeff used to participate in pop-up food events, but they require a lot of prep work, so in the near future, he probably won’t do any. Gardner’s been gearing up to teach a Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management class at Lane Community College for the upcoming winter term.


Pasta Gardner officially became a business in early 2014, and it’s been a busy, fun journey for Jeff these past few years. He’s excited for his next adventure teaching others how to cook, and is definitely excited to be doing something where he’s not the boss. Following a curriculum is different for him – he’s used to whipping up dishes that delight his fancy at a moment’s notice, but one thing is for sure: If he builds it, students will come. And his future students will undoubtedly become fans, and they will become customers and friends. And as his and his gregarious nature continue to take hold in peoples’ hearts, and as his amazing pasta continues to tease more taste buds, his pasta garden empire-to-be will be … his empire.

Drivers for Survivors Announces Expansion of its Volunteer Service Area in Alameda County, Calif.

–By Emily R. Anderson

Drivers for Survivors is a non-profit organization located in Fremont, Calif. which pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments.

The mission is simply wonderful. In order for cancer patients to worry less about how to get to their appointments, Drivers for Survivors provides much needed support for those who already have enough on their emotional plates.

Executive Director Sherry Higgs started this non-profit and shared her enthusiasm with how her volunteers throughout the past five years have been life savers. More often than not, volunteer drivers – who have gone through back ground checks, have had a good driving record for at least five years, and have a reliable, working car – become friends with their clients.

Drivers for Survivors has been around for almost five years serving clients living in Fremont, Union City and Newark. As of July 1st, volunteers have since begun serving clients living in more Alameda County cities: Hayward, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Ashland and Cherryland. It is located at 39270 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite 355.

Dubbed volunteer companion drivers by Higgs, these angels on wheels can decide how often they want to volunteer. Some people only have time to drive clients on weekends or once a week; the need is always there, but it’s a stress-free scheduling environment because there is no schedule. There are no time slots that need to be filled in advance.

Ms. Higgs says that “volunteers will get an e-mail every day or a call when a (a pick up) needs to be fulfilled. No private information is given. For example an e-mail will list that the client is a Fremont resident, and his or her Fremont appointment starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 3:25 p.m at the Fremont Kaiser location. The volunteers reply back and [decide to take] number one or number five on the list. Sometimes volunteers choose a few appointments at once. Sometimes drivers bond really well with their passengers and decide to keep [giving] their passengers rides.”

Photo Courtesy of Driver’s For Survivors

Once a volunteer chooses to accept a ride, a patient then decides which information to give to Drivers for Survivors volunteers.

Volunteer drivers do need to give at least one client ride once every six months in order to remain in “active” status. Drivers for Survivors currently has 121 active volunteer drivers and has had 214 drivers overall since it began. She has had four volunteers who have volunteered since the beginning; in fact, the woman who gave Ms. Higgs rides to her appointments when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 is one of these four women.

Drivers for Survivors has received several awards over the years from California politicians and Ms. Higgs has been inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. (This organization recognizes women who are leaders who live in or work in Alameda County.)

Ms. Higgs has been very grateful for the serendipitous moments that have occurred over the years, thankful for every one’s efforts to continue helping in the organization’s growth.

“We all need to grab onto something: a non-profit, or any cause…and give more of ourselves,” she said. “The medical providers and our mainstream resources have so much on their plates already. Networks like ours are very valuable because we pick up some of the slack.”

Drivers for Survivors is expanding its 403-square-feet office into the office space next door to create 333 more square feet for staff and interns by August 1. While 736 square-feet isn’t huge, this much-needed space will continue to allow all staff, interns and volunteers to continue their dedicated work. Since the beginning, 11,500 rides have been given to 288 cancer patients.  And Ms. Higgs hopes to create satellite offices in other areas in the future to accommodate other volunteers and clients in the future.

Interns and non-driving volunteers are always needed for marketing, administrative support, and the need for putting up flyers in the community is always helpful. Drivers for Survivors also holds its annual gala at the Castlewood County Club, so fundraising efforts are key.

Drivers for Survivors also holds annual volunteer appreciation luncheons as well as quarterly volunteer trainings so volunteers can meet each other and discuss any relevant topics as needed. For example, volunteers may need to be trained how to help a blind cancer patient in and out of vehicles.

The logo on the brochures shows a red heart atop wheels. Ms. Higgs expressed the importance of “the synergy of working together” because Drivers for Survivors is doing the right thing.

“It’s important to keep the momentum going,” Higgs said. She speaks with such pride and love of the non-profit. She started as a one woman show and she understands the value of volunteers’ time and efforts. Her energy and passion for the simple, but life-saving mission is heartfelt: love for the organization’s mission is what keeps her driving onward.

If you’re in the Alameda County area and would like to volunteer, please call 510-579-0535 or e-mail info@driversforsurvivors.org.