French Fry Heaven employees donate all their tips to charity
What could be more of a guilt-free pleasure than chowing down on succulent french fries in the name of charity?
In a little more than a year, French Fry Heaven at 100 St. George St., Suite A, owned by Dylan and Tina Rumrell, has donated almost $5,000 to local charities, thanks to the generosity of not only the restaurant’s customers, but also to the seven employees who are paid on a hourly basis and receive no tips. Instead, patrons are invited to put tips into a jar that is emptied each month and presented to a local charity.
The Betty Griffin House, St. Francis House, the St. Augustine Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker,” Keepers of the Coast, Police Athletic League, Big Brothers, Big Sisters — all have received generous donations as a result of French Fry Heaven’s tip jar.
The only out-of-town exception was a donation, earlier this year, to the victims of the tornado in Oklahoma. That donation was made through the Red Cross.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Nikki Richardson, eatery manager, who’s been with the business since the beginning. A single mother, Richardson previously worked as a bartender, where tips were her principle income.
“It’s really uplifting to see customers read the signs on our tip jar that says where the donations are going each month, visually reflect, then reach into their pockets and dig a little deeper for that extra bit of change, that once added up, could really make a difference,” Richardson said in an email. “It feels good to know that our little fry shop is actually making a difference in our community and getting the customers involved as well.
“We have customers from all over the world walk into this store, and the tip jar sign is a big conversation starter for everyone. We get asked constantly if we’re OK with donating our tips, and I have yet to hear an employee respond with anything less than enthusiasm for the cause. It makes people think. If a group of kids, working in a fry shop are willing to pool their tips together for a good cause each month, what can I do? Part of the mission statement of French Fry Heaven is to make a substantial positive impact in the world. We hold true to that down here on St. George Street.”
Dylan Rumrell teaches his staff the importance of giving back to the community. And those who have received the funds have shown their appreciation.
In December, the St. Augustine Ballet Company received nearly $600 as a result of the generosity of the eatery’s patrons. To help sweeten the pot, Jodi Kotrady-Hatin, who is associated with the ballet company, encouraged families involved with the ballet to patronize the establishments.
“Being an organization that’s involved in the arts — every little bit helps,” she said. “I gotta tell you, Dylan is just amazing.”
Another organization benefitting from the program is Lightner Museum’s scavenger hunt. French Fry Heaven donated $300 for that program, said Bob Harper, executive director of Lightner Museum. “We certainly appreciate the public spirit which they exhibit.”
Dylan Rumrell is a Jacksonville native who graduated from Flagler College, so he knows where the needs are.
“You know, it’s kind of interesting. I’ve lived here since 1999,” he said. “So I know some of the local charities.”
But he encourages his employees to join in the selection of the monthly recipients.
“I ask them, so they’re contributing back as well,” he said.
The August charity is St. Gerard House.
The staff includes Kalel Leonard, Kristin Powers, Matthew Goodman and Gwen Love, all of whom are Flagler College students; and Reid Pellicer.
French Fry Heaven offers sweet potato and regular potato fries, which are served with one of 21 toppings. The toppings range from chicken alfredo, cheeseburger and datil pepper to funnel cake and blueberry.