MCHA logo - links to homepage

Heart of Hospitality: For hospitality professionals, helping others comes first 

December 5, 2023

Any industry employing more than 25,000 people is positioned to make an impact, but that’s especially true of hospitality. 

As Monterey County’s second-largest industry, tourism generated $307 million in local and state taxes in 2022. Still, the hospitality’s real influence extends beyond revenues. Area hotels, restaurants, wineries, attractions and retailers give time and money to countless nonprofits, schools, fund drives and philanthropic efforts.  

For example, various 2023 events at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca are raising money for Pajaro flood relief, SPCA Monterey County, Monterey County Food Bank and others. Nonprofit members of the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca service club received approximately $80,000 this year, as well, with a program expansion planned for 2024. Beyond the track, 2023 car week events raised nearly $3 million for charities across Monterey County.  

That’s just the beginning. The individuals, companies and organizations involved in hospitality are the heart of the Monterey County community. Their stories of giving back are as diverse as the people who call the region home.  

Supporting Schools and Students 

On a Saturday in late October, a group of Pebble Beach Company employees gathered at Monterey's Monte Vista Elementary. Together with parents and employees, they raked pine needles, planted flowers, re-contoured drainage channels and installed picnic tables. They also painted drop-off zone curbs and staircase stripes to enhance visibility. 

Each year Pebble Beach Company team members nominate schools for this annual beautification project. After selecting a recipient, the company collaborates with school administrators on a work plan. Pebble Beach donates supplies, and employees enthusiastically volunteer their time to make facilities more enjoyable and safer for students. 

“At Pebble Beach Company, our values extend far beyond the confines of our workplace. We believe in the power of community and the responsibility we have to uphold it,” says Berenice Sanchez, Pebble Beach Company Communications Manager. "It’s with this spirit in mind that we come together to bring this value to life and aim to enrich our community.” 

Through the Pebble Beach Company Outreach Team, staff members also regularly volunteer for beach cleanups, food drives, fundraisers and other community initiatives. 

"We believe in the power of community, and the profound impact we can make,” Sanchez says. “We take great pride in giving back.” 

Companies and individuals working in the hospitality industry also give time and funds to Rancho Cielo, the Salinas campus that offers education, job training and services for underserved and disconnected youth. Members of the Monterey County Hospitality Association (MCHA) support programs at Rancho Cielo’s Drummond Culinary Academy, where students gain hands-on work experience in culinary careers. Restaurants host white tablecloth dinners that introduce students to professional colleagues and fine dining experiences. Chefs, hotel executives and human resources managers meet with classes, mentor individuals, and welcome Rancho Cielo students for job shadowing and internships.  

MCHA members lead resume reviews and participate in annual hospitality career fair events, as well. They also donate and distribute professional attire to Rancho Cielo students during the annual MCHA Clothing Drive & Career Day.  

Stepping Up When Crisis Strikes 

After floodwaters displaced Pajaro residents in March, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa team snapped into action. A suggestion to donate personal care products, including soaps and shampoos, quickly became a multi-property initiative supported by MCHA members including the Monterey Marriott, Portola Hotel & Spa, Big Sur River Inn and Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. 

"Before you know it, I had sales managers driving the hotel shuttle and stopping off at different hotels to collect whatever they could give," says Kevin Ellis, the Monterey Hyatt's general manager. "We had an overwhelming response." 

Countywide, more than 30 hotels offered discounted rates for residents forced to evacuate following storms in January and March. Each fire season, hotels, both large and small, also accommodate residents facing evacuations related to power outages, smoke or flames. The pet-friendly Monterey Hyatt welcomes four-legged family members, too. 

Throughout the year, the property also donates fees from two of its pet suites to Max's Helping Paws. The local nonprofit helps households cover unexpected animal care expenses. 

"That's been a really fun one for our team, because a lot of them have pets and they love giving people resources when they need them the most," Ellis says. 

Whether they're assisting in emergencies, donating clothing to Rancho Cielo students or volunteering with the Monterey County Food Bank, the Monterey Hyatt's 400 employees generously give time, energy and personal income to support their friends and neighbors.  

"Sometimes these efforts fly under the radar, but the ideas come directly from our team members. Even the small gestures compound. This work is a great representation of who we are as a community,” Ellis says. 

Sustaining Community Members 

Monterey restaurateurs Chris and Sabu Shake, Jr., started hosting food drives more than two decades ago, building on the legacy of their parents. The late Sabu Shake, Sr., founded Old Fisherman's Grotto in 1950. Chris now owns the restaurant, and he and Sabu, Jr., are partners in Monterey and Kona, Hawaii, locations of The Fish Hopper. 

"Our mother and father taught us to help others at an early age," says Sabu Shake, Jr. "My dad always said, 'It's not what you make in life. It's what you give back.'” 

During their annual turkey drive, the Shakes gather thousands of dollars in donations to buy turkeys and hams. The Salvation Army distributes the food through its Sabu Shake, Sr. Good Samaritan Center.   

"We feed more than 7,000 people each year," Shake says. "Most are distributed within Monterey County, but if someone from another city needs help, we don't turn people down. We want everybody to have a celebration during the season." 

The brothers are quick to donate fundraising auction items and assist community members at other times, too. They donated $25,000 for Maui Strong, following summer fires that impacted the families of some of their Hawaii restaurant employees. When restaurants closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the Shake’s fed their employees and their families two meals a day, kept them on the payroll and loaned them money to help pay their bills.  

"We started giving out groceries twice a week – things like meat, chicken, pastas, side dishes and beverages. If the employee had a family of five or six, we gave them enough for everyone," Shake says. "We decided to do this personally, no matter what it cost us.”  

The Shake brothers held the 15th and final presentation of Sabu’s Safari, their successful Salvation Army fundraiser, in October 2022. This year, the brothers have been asked to co-chair the the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Kick-Off event at Spanish Bay.  The brothers will continue to oversee their annual holiday drive and turkey drive that raises money for Christmas gifts provided through the nonprofit. 

Those three Shake-led events alone – Sabu’s Safari, the turkey drive and the holiday drive – have raised more $6.5 million for the Salvation Army.  

“We're grateful and honored to do these things, and to have the resources to help,” Shake says. “We have a great, great, supportive community. I'm very proud of our community and how much they give.” 


MCHA is proud to partner with the following organizations and sponsors.
Become a partner/sponsor today
© 2024 Monterey County Hospitality Association. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram