If you are planning to eat out in Columbus this week, there is a pretty good chance you could be helping Columbus restauranteur Mark Jones, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a May automobile crash.
The restaurant community has responded to Jones' plight in a significant manner. At least 35 local restaurants — including the nine Jones owns — are participating in the fundraising effort. Most restaurants are donating a percentage of their sales on a particular day or a stretch of several days.
The effort is called "Grubbin' To Give For Mark Jones Fundraiser Week," a play off the number of "Grubbin' To Give" benefits that Jones has done over the years in his establishments to assist local charities.
But one local restaurant owner, Trevor Morris, co-owner of Trevioli Italian Kitchen on Blackmon Road, has decided to open Sunday, normally an off day for the business, to help a competitor.
"Something just led me to do this," said Morris. "The way I look at it, this is something that is bigger than all of us. I really think this is something that God is doing in our community."
Jones, 53, is a quadriplegic from injuries suffered in an early morning car crash on May 20 when he plowed his truck into the rear of an 18-wheeler in Phenix City as he was traveling home from an out-of-town trip. After undergoing surgery at Piedmont Columbus Regional's midtown campus to relieve pressure on his spinal chord, Jones was moved to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the top rehab hospitals in the nation. He could be there throughout the summer.
In addition to the physical recovery, the situation has put Jones in a financial hardship. After the Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance company announced they would no longer support and offer individual coverage in Georgia, the Joneses were forced to explore a new insurance policy. During the process of seeking a new policy, the crash occurred, leaving the family uninsured.
Jones' plight has touched a lot of people, said his business partner and friend, Stephanie Woodham, who is organizing the fundraising efforts.
"I've been amazed by the support of the community as they have rallied around Mark the past few weeks," Woodham said. "We all knew Mark was a pillar of the Columbus culinary scene but the support of everyone from each industry has been truly overwhelming."
Morris and Jones were not particularly close, but Jones did eat at the original Trevioli's in a north Columbus storage facility. A few months ago, they were staying in the same hotel during a food show in Atlanta. The two men ended up at the bar and had a nearly two-hour discussion.
"We were just hanging out talking," Morris said. "He told me at the time, he had learned how important family was over the years. He knew that I was working myself to death, and he told me I needed to take a step back and look at my family."
A week ago, Morris posted on Facebook Trevioli Italian Kitchen's plans to help Jones. It struck a social media nerve and picked up about 2,500 Facebook shares, more than 3,300 reactions and hundreds of comments.
"While we are technically opponents in the world of capitalist free market — we are brothers in supporting the economic system of Columbus, Ga, local employees and their families," Morris wrote. "When I proposed this idea to my staff, they overwhelmingly agreed without any question or stipulation. The restaurant business is a brotherhood (and sisterhood)."
Morris' restaurant seats 150 people and Morris is expecting a steady flow based on the response to the social media post. He will serve a limited menu, but one of the items will Jones inspired.
"We had a conversation at the storage building one night and I told him I really didn't want to make spaghetti," Morris said.
Jones then took Morris to school on the Columbus restaurant scene.
"He told me you got to understand this about Columbus, they want the classics, and if you are going to make spaghetti, it better be better than anybody else's spaghetti," Morris said.
Here are the participating restaurants:
▪ Barberitos Southwestern Grille in The Landings, Monday
▪ Barberitos, Broadway in downtown Columbus, Monday
▪ Your Pie, Broadway in downtown Columbus and The Landings, Monday
▪ 11th and Bay Southern Table, downtown Columbus, Monday - Saturday
▪ Bruster's Real Ice Cream of Phenix City, Tuesday-Thursday
▪ The Simple Greek, Broadway in downtown Columbus, Tuesday
▪ Subway, Columbus locations, Wednesday
▪ Chicken Salad Chick & Chicken Salad Chick, in Midland and at the Landings shopping center, Wednesday, 4-8 p.m.
▪ Chick-fil-A, Phenix City; Chick-fil-A Macon Road; Chick-fil-A Manchester Expressway; Chick-fil-A Midland; Chick-fil-A Bradley Park Drive; Chick-fil-A Columbus Park Crossing; Chick-fil-A Peachtree Mall; Chick-fil-A Medical Center of Columbus, Thursday
▪ Pat's Backwaters, River Road, Thursday
▪ Country's Barbecue, all three Columbus locations, Friday-Sunday
▪ 219 Food and Spirits, Fortson, Saturday
▪ B.Merrell's, north Veterans Parkway, Friday-Sunday
▪ Trevioli Italian Kitchen, Blackmon Road, Sunday 5-10 p.m.
▪ Bare Roots Farmacy, downtown Columbus, Sunday during brunch hours
▪ Iron Bank Coffee Company, they will match customer's 25-cent donations
▪ Columbus Eats Food Tours, Every Saturday Tour in the month of July
Mark Jones restaurants will participate Monday-Saturday
▪ The Black Cow; Smoke Bourbon and BBQ; Hunter's Pub and Steakhouse; Mark's City Grill; Mark's Pies & Thighs; Ready Steak GO; Flip Side Burgers & Tacos; Plucked Up - Chicken & Biscuits; The Poultry Company