The restaurant community rallies to help workers recovering from the Thomas Fire and mudslides 

SANTA BARBARA – Restaurants Care®, a program of the California Restaurant Association Foundation (CRAF), has just given its 115th  grant award to a Santa Barbara area restaurant worker in need.


Restaurants Care helps restaurant workers who face unanticipated hardship by providing grants that help workers meet their basic needs while they get back on their feet. After the devastating Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides, the restaurant community was rocked. Workers were displaced, lost their homes and couldn’t return to work due to closures. It also took time for tourism to return to the area, so shifts were cut. Restaurants Care provided peace of mind for workers affected by the fires through grants for rent, food, gas, and utilities to bridge the gap. 


“When we launched the program a little more than a year and a half ago, we were thinking the fund would benefit people facing unexpected life circumstances like illness, injury or a death in the immediate family,” said CRAF executive director, Alycia Harshfield. “Of course, at about the same time we were launching our program, California wildfires took a turn for the worse and we realized, that’s where most of the need would be. The loss was staggering in the Santa Barbara community and we are pleased that Restaurants Care could offer some relief while workers and the community bounced back.”


Funding for the grants was supported by the local community through the 2018 Santa Barbara Restaurant Week and a benefit concert by country star and local, Brad Paisley.


“Because our program was so new, the generosity of Brad Paisley and diners eating out during Santa Barbara Restaurant Week was critical and made it possible to help so many people,” Harshfield said.


Here’s a snapshot of our results since the program began in June 2017:

  • Nearly $300K in grants
  • 115 Thomas Fire grantees 
  • 328 lives changed altogether 

This year, Santa Barbara Restaurant Week benefits ProStart, a high school culinary arts program that CRAF leads in California. Another worthy cause, ProStart is the premier training program for high school students who are aspiring chefs, restaurant managers and owners. Click here for more information on this year’s Restaurant Week and who benefits!

As for Restaurants Care, we still have emergency assistance grants available now for restaurant workers facing an unforeseen crisis. The emergency does not need to be the result of a natural disaster – Restaurants Care continues to help people in a variety of circumstances with support for housing, utilities, and basic living needs.  Recipients have included accident victims, workers struggling from an illness, and a restaurant manager who found herself adopting a relative’s baby when the family member couldn’t care for the child.

Applications can be found at—restaurants-care.html  

And, there is still opportunity to help those who need our help the most: If you’re a restaurant, you can learn about how easy and fun it is to host a third-party event on behalf of Restaurants Care. Not surprisingly, the need for our help continues. Contact Bobbi Cichowski at


For more information about Restaurants Care for publication, please reach out to Alycia Harshfield at 916-431-2757 or