Beaches Restaurant in Vancouver, WA Serves up Cuisine With a Cause

By Sharon H. Fitzgerald on May 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm EST
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When Mike Barret, head chef at Beaches Restaurant and Bar in Vancouver, took the job in 2000, he didn’t realize that preparation of green eggs and ham for thousands would be an annual culinary requirement.

Known throughout southwest Washington for their warm hearts and high energy when it comes to raising money for children’s causes, Beaches, its employees and owner Mark Matthias host the Green Eggs and Ham reading program in local schools each year on the March birthday of Dr. Seuss.

“It takes a little bit of coordination. In 2008, we made green eggs and ham for about 7,400 people. There’s a lot of egg scrambling going on,” acknowledges Barret, who credits the entire Beaches team with the effort.

First-graders and their parents are treated to the unconventional breakfast, and parents read Dr. Seuss classics to the children, who each receive one of the classic books and a quintessential Cat in the Hat stovetop chapeau.

“My kid loves his hat. They’re actually really warm,” Barret says.

Designed to excite children about reading and involve their parents in the schools, the Seuss program is just one in a long list of charity functions orchestrated by Matthias for local kids.

Beaches also sponsors Cruisin’, the largest weekly classic-car gathering on the West Coast, which is held Wednesday nights from June to September. Held at the Portland International Raceway, Cruisin’ raises more than $100,000 each summer.

In 1995, Matthias established the Beaches Charity Fund with a goal to raise $1 million for community children’s causes by 2011.

One consistent beneficiary of Matthias’ indefatigable enthusiasm and organizational skills is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, with two Vancouver locations serving about 2,100 children. Not only does the organization receive money from the Beaches Charity Fund, Matthias is “the brains” as well as the emcee of the organization’s annual June fundraiser, an auction and food fest featuring area chefs, says Elise Menashe, Boys & Girls Clubs executive director. The event raised $450,000 in 2007 and $915,000 in 2008.

“Our mission is about youth development, and Mark is passionate about children, about giving them hope and opportunity,” Menashe says.

She recalls how Beaches pampers the graduates of her organization’s Manners Club, which offers dinner at Beaches as a reward.

“Of course, Mark takes it the extra step. When our kids get there, there’s a white tablecloth with nametags and a little package for each child,” Menashe says. “They order off of the menu, and they have the time of their life. Of course, we expect to pay for it, but Mark will never let us.”

Matthias is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs board of the directors, as well as the board of the Vancouver School District Foundation.

“One of the qualities I admire most about Mark is his willingness to make a personal commitment to the things he values,” says Jim Sork, director of the Vancouver School District Foundation. “In my mind, it is this attribute that separates those of us who care about our community from those few who, by their personal efforts, truly shape the community.”

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