September 26, 2021
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Donated lunches feed many people

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 3, 2020

In recent weeks many of our local restaurants who are mom and pop owned have taken it in the chin extremely hard. Many had to lay off their employees and took on more hours themselves. 

Many eateries had to cut hours or closed the business until the Covid 19 has spread its nasty wings and the community no longer will be just a “shelter in place.” 

Other diners and grills have a pick-up service, curb side which is stay in the car while an employee hands it through the car window and others have gone to self-delivery, Grubhub or Door Dash.

One such restaurant is Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park. We all know that Gerard Guidice is very generous to his community and that being said his business is really taking a huge blow due to event cancellations, shelter in place, as Sally Tomatoes catering is their biggest income generator along with the outdoor concert and comedy shows all have been cancelled.

Laying off his employees hurt Guidice to the core as he is a loving family man and Sally Tomatoes is family. So now it is time to come to the aide of someone who has been a pillar of generosity in the community.

Last week when things were getting cancelled, even before the quarantine was really grave, Casey Williams called Gerard and ordered 50 boxed lunches and was very adamant that there are to be no discounts given. Casey took the lunch boxes to downtown Santa Rosa and gave them to everyone who could use a smile and above all a free meal. Casey said, “I had to do something.”

Last Tuesday, Williams engaged his Rotary Club, Santa Rosa West, and asked the board to pledge $1,000 to this particular project, and not only that, he also reached out to a sister rotary club, the Rotary Club of Santa Rosa East and they also agreed to match the $1,000. What an accomplishment! Casey says, “Since last Saturday, I have secured corporate donations from Sonoma Clean Power and St. Joseph’s Health Center for $1,000 each.”

On Saturday, March 28, those funds bought close to 200 boxed lunches from Sally Tomatoes. They then set up a free drive thru at the Multicultural Child Development Center in Santa Rosa and gave a lunch box to any one that drove up and showed their business card, hospitality card or even showed a shirt or hat from the bar or restaurant they had been employed at and were given a free meal for them and their families.

There are so many people in the hospitality industry who are out of work for now. These people work hard and are left with no source of income though certainly no fault of their own.

Since Casey Williams wants to make this a weekly thing that he has set up a GoFundMe page. He said, “I just launched this March 24 and already $855 were donated. I would love to expand this program and keep it going as long as it is needed.”   As of March 31, donations stands now at $2,250 which means that the food give away can be given out two more Saturdays and the best part over $6,000 has been raised in five days.

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Gerard did throw in extra lunches for free but that is Giudice’s way of doing things, but the goal of the program is to feed the hard working sector of their industry that drives the economy as 25 percent of Sonoma County’s economy is tourism but this is also helping a business that has literally been built on giving back to this community. The time for the hand-outs has changed and will be from noon for the drive-thru at the same location. Last Saturday about 20 cars came through the drive-thru. Over all about 175 lunches were handed out and Sonoma County Acts of Kindness picked up the remaining 40 to add to Sally Tomatoes 200 lunches. Thanks to them!

Casey says, “there was a recent Press Democrat article when Gerard said, “if we dog o down, we are going down swinging.” “Well,” as Casey continues. “I am going to fight right along side of him. Once we all get through this unprecedented time, I am sure Gerard will be back to his huge hearted, generous self.” “Until then,” Casey said, “I really want to give back to someone who has given so much to us and an industry that works so hard while being a huge part of what makes Sonoma County the best place to live in the world.”