Local businesses come together for hurricane relief

Within the last few weeks, businesses nationwide have come together to provide aid for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In South Florida, two small businesses stood out in making a difference.

On Sept. 3, La Fresa Francesa, a French restaurant in Hialeah, started to help by conducting a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Along with Councilman Paul Hernandez, Unbranded Brewery, and sitcom “The Hialeah Series,” they raised $1,314 for the Houston Food Bank. Aside from twenty percent of the days’ sales being donated overall, the owners created a special “Houston Sandwich” (made with steak, onions and Funyuns) and 100% of the proceeds from patrons who ordered the sandwich were also donated.

Just one week after their fundraiser, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. Despite her own business being shut down for five days after the storm, Sandy Sanchez, owner of La Fresa Francesa, wanted to help the area where the hurricane dealt the most damage – the Florida Keys.

Even though she did not have the time to promote and plan her second fundraiser as effectively as the first, she and her team made it work.

“It was a different frame of mind at the time, you know? We were concerned about not having power and everything, but still some people came out to help the best they could,” Sanchez said.

The fundraiser for Key West was held on Sept. 17, and Sanchez’s husband and the restaurant’s head chef, Benoit Rablat, created the Banana Flambé French Toast specifically for the event. Once again, 100% of the proceeds from the specialty dish were donated to the United Way to help the victims in the Keys. In total, they raised $245.

Around the same time, Leor Barak, owner of New York Grilled Cheese, a small grilled cheese restaurant located in Boca Raton and Wilton Manors made a call to action.

His establishment is not a stranger to lending a helping hand. Every year, in partnership with the Key West Smart Ride, they host their “Cheese-A-Rama” event. The funds raised are donated to the Broward House and other non-profit organizations.

Although this year’s “Cheese-A-Rama” was disrupted due to Hurricane Irma, Barak and the staff at New York Grilled Cheese were far more concerned with the unexpected impact that Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico.

“I wasn’t even in town. I called Josh, one of my managers, and told him that we needed to help Puerto Rico. I think the Keys are going to be alright, but Puerto Rico desperately needs help right now,” Barak said.

“Cheese-A-Rama” was rescheduled for Sept. 27 and its mission shifted to help Puerto Rico. The staff and marketers raced against the clock to spread the word.

New York Grilled Cheese raised over $1,000 at the event and donated 20% of their sales that day to UnidosUS, an organization that since 1968 has been an advocate for Latinos’ rights. Barak said he felt it was a domino reaction. Soon after, he noticed other businesses in the area jumping to help Puerto Rico despite dealing with their own recovery after Irma.

Both La Fresa Francesa and New York Grilled Cheese plan on continuing to help relief efforts. Sanchez, with the help of Councilman Paul Hernandez, is planning a future fundraiser for the families of victims of the Las Vegas shooting. Barak said he will continue to host the “Cheese-A-Rama” and give back to non-profit organizations in Ft. Lauderdale in the following years.