2020 is in the rearview, but the challenges presented by that tough year are still very much at hand.
From the devastation of the coronavirus, to a country divided politically — and drained emotionally — we’re all still striving to get back to normal and prioritize positivity.
With the shared burdens of 2020 and the shared goals of 2021, what better way to improve tomorrow than spreading kindness and helping feed essential workers today?
For Cali BBQ Media founder and media maven Shawn Walchef, spreading kindness in his hometown of San Diego and through his digital domains has long been a way of life. When challenged to spread kindness even more by his mentor David Meltzer, Shawn accepted the mission and rallied his troops to feed essential workers in the San Diego community.
Giving Back to Others in San Diego
Collaborating within his community, Shawn reached out to Victor Lopez, owner of El Pollo Grill. Over the years, Victor and Shawn have both led by example when it comes to feeding San Diego’s community with quality food and consistent service. And both prioritize giving back to others.
“Shawn’s been to my establishment and I’ve been to his,” says Victor Lopez on his long-standing relationship and mutual respect.
“We’ve talked over tough times during the pandemic and we both know each other has done work with the community over the past. Shawn asked me if I wanted to be part of giving food to the post office employees for their hard work and that’s how it started.”
That’s how it started. So, how’s it going?
“Now, we’re helping out the first responders and ICU workers,” shares Victor.
After seeing the Spreading Kindness visit to the Post Office, our BBQ brother Rueal (@shockingsparky) kindly donated $1,000 so our team could feed an ICU unit at Scripps Mercy Hospitality in Chula Vista.
Spreading Kindness continued…???❤️
Thank you to all the amazing healthcare professionals at @scrippshealth Chula…
The generous donations we’ve received have helped us further our Spreading Kindness mission forward. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far and to those who are planning to donate to the campaign.
By spreading kindness through food and action, Shawn and Victor are donating their famous BBQ and Mexican cuisine to the medical professionals that have been pushed to the brink with stress, service and workload during pandemic times.
Our Spreading Kindness mission continued last night at Kaiser Permanente’s ICU Unit on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard as we donated some BBQ meals to our Frontline Healthcare Heroes.
— Cali BBQ (@CaliComfort) January 19, 2021
Shawn and Victor want to help how they can, and that’s with food and hospitality. They’re digging deep and looking closely to help those that help us and simply do the best they can.
“We’re not curing the virus with food,” says Victor Lopez of El Pollo Grill, “but the first responders are working eight to 17 hours a day and food calms the anxiety. It’s not going to cure the virus or get them home earlier, but a full stomach goes a long way – especially when it’s from somebody you don’t know.”
Owner of El Pollo Grill, @spanostacodude and @shawnpwalchef from @CaliComfort BBQ are giving back to first responders, essential workers, and those working in the ICU units. All you have to do is visit either restaurant and the profits made will be donated. @KUSINews pic.twitter.com/6ySiUPCk6F
— Kacey McKinnon (@KMcKinnonKUSI) January 5, 2021
Continuing to give help and ask for help, Shawn has received plenty of support from his home team at Cali BBQ.
Steven P. Swiderski, Catering and Events Manager at Cali BBQ, was an easy add when it came to the Spreading Kindness campaign. Over the years, Steven has proven to everyone at Cali BBQ what a dedicated and kind person he is with his actions and demeanor. Steven is also known in the community as BBQ Santa.
Based on his pedigree for bringing joy, Steven was quick to answer Shawn and Victor’s call to help give back.
“Spreading Kindness is important to us because it’s all about giving back and taking care of the ones who take care of us,” Steven Swiderski states.
“Whether it’s medical staff, first responders or postal workers, everyone is working endlessly and deserves a simple ‘Thank You.’”
On the mission to spread more kindness, Cali BBQ and El Pollo Grill are actively providing food to first responders and ICU workers. Because of this, it was worth asking for help from the people that provide food to the restaurants themselves.
US Foods Donates to Spreading Kindness Campaign
Adding to his charitable army, Shawn then reached out to Joshua Downing, New Business Manager for US Foods.
US Foods is a large foodservice distributor and food company that partners with more than 300,000 restaurants and foodservice operators to help them find solutions and succeed in the food business.
“Shawn and I met years ago through the partnership of US Foods and Cali BBQ,” shares Joshua Downing about Cali BBQ and US Foods relationship. “We have always worked with Shawn on all of his projects in and around the community and BBQ.”
Teamwork as they say makes the Dreamwork. By Shawn assembling a cast of compassionate businesspeople with a penchant for giving, spreading kindness has never been easier.
Still, it’s worth noting that things have not always been easy for Shawn and those in the food industry over the course of the pandemic.
Helping Others In Tough Times
As known, the coronavirus has affected restaurants dramatically during the last year.
“The coronavirus has affected catering tremendously,” shares Steven. “We had to virtually stop full service all together and pivot to only pickup and delivery catering only.”
The virus has impacted restaurants very famously and naturally it’s affected suppliers just the same.
“This virus has devastated our industry,” admits Josh Downing. “From the manufactures, to the distribution, to the restaurateurs and the diners, all have been impacted financially, emotionally and it still continues to create a tough situation all in this industry.”
As explained, the pandemic has been tough on all. While it has affected the likes of Cali BBQ and El Pollo Grill, both spaces have been smart enough to pivot to survive.
Just the same, their storied commitment to giving and spreading kindness has allowed them to stay open despite all the adversity.
“Fortunately, Shawn and my restaurants are still pretty strong,” notes Victor. “With the help from the federal government, the county and the state we’re able to help out others and not just look after ourselves.
“We’re blessed that we still have our businesses and that they’re still going strong. But that also shows that we’re doing business the right way and not just for our own pockets.”
“Prior to the pandemic, I’ve been giving food to the homeless and anyone in need. Shawn is the same way. This has been going for a long time. If we didn’t have the means to do it, we couldn’t but we are blessed, so we are helping. To help one week at a time is our goal.”
So, for Shawn and Victor, spreading kindness and helping others is a day-by-day and week-by-week journey.
Just as the pandemic has made more in need of help, David Meltzer’s challenge has motivated Shawn, Victor others to keep giving and push through.
“As hard as you’re working to provide for your own family, there is always going to be somebody in need and it’s right in front of you,” states Victor Lopez.
“It’s easy for a restaurant that’s not suffering to give a little bit of their food and make someone happy. At the end of the day it’s going to come back to the restaurant one way or another. The need is right in front of you. I’m pretty sure people that are sick right now are in the most need, but who better to help than the ones helping them?”
This point has proven true for all involved. While Steven has long loved serving up plates as BBQ Santa, his involvement in spreading kindness to ICU workers has inspired his spirit just the same.
“The response from the ICU workers has been wonderful,” beams Steven.
“Seeing the smiles and the pure happiness in their eyes says it all. It is a true blessing to feed and give to those that work so hard.”
In a time of so much division and adversity, spreading kindness may be more needed now than it’s ever been.
“It’s important for all to spread kindness with all that is going on today,” says Joshua Downing of US Foods. “With the virus, politics, and the racial tension, it’s important to take a moment and let your neighbors, friends, strangers know that someone cares in some way, shape or form.”
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Wise words and a worthy call to action.
But, what if you’re not sure how to spread kindness? Well, those doing it have a good idea on how.
“Start with something small!” says Joshua. “Just giving a person on the street a meal. Giving a family meal to a family in need. Get involved with a food pantry or other company.”
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Still not sure on how to do it on your own? Just join those that are already doing it.
For now, the spreading kindness mission is in full effect with the joy already echoing for all involved.
“We’ve had emails and phone calls expressing gratitude,” shares Victor. “We’re going to keep on doing it even after the pandemic. Me and Shawn are going to come up with some other strategies to make this world a little bit better.”
Week by week, day by day, it’s all about spreading kindness. And when it comes to spreading kindness, sometimes a little better is just enough.
To Donate to the Spreading Kindness Campaign you can Venmo money to @Shawn-Walchef or email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask how you can help.