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Barbers team with Athens Pizza for holiday feed
Bill and Tom Contoravdis know just about everything there is to know about baking pizza pies, concocting succulent pasta dishes and building grinders that are the stuff of local gustatory legend.
But when it comes to promoting something in the community or raising money for a good cause, the owners of Athens Pizza and Pasta at 959 E. Main Street will admit they know almost nothing.
So when Bill earlier this year decided that he wanted the restaurant to start a tradition by hosting a Thanksgiving feed for people who would otherwise go without, something he’d had in mind for years, you’d have thought he’d sweat getting the word out.
But hey, this is Auburn.
And Auburn has a big heart.
Just about a quarter mile down East Main is The Valley Barber Shop, headquarters for a group of generous men calling itself Barbers Against Hunger. The members of this five-year old organization share one defining character trait: none can keep still when need rages in the community.
Athens Pizza and Pasta has allowed Barbers Against Hunger to post fliers for its annual food drive there. One Sunday during the drive the restaurant donates 20 percent of its receipts to BAH to support its good works.
“One day Bill told us, ‘Hey, I want to do something else this year,’ said Alex Green, one of Barbers Against Hunger’s founding members, though he himself is not a barber. “Bill said, ‘I see you guys out there doing something, and I want to feed the needy this year. But I’ve got no clue about going out and getting money and talking to people.’
“We told him, ‘Hey, we do these things, and since you help us, let us do everything for you, you just cook,” Green said.
And that’s how Athens Pizza, helped by Barbers Against Hunger, and ultimately the Sports Page Bar and Grill, the Auburn Food Bank, the City of Auburn, Zolas, Albertsons, and even Office Max, found itself serving up 500 free complementary dinners on Thanksgiving Day.
“We’re the sons of a Greek Orthodox minister, and he taught us about the importance of giving back to the community that has supported us all these years,” Bill Contoravadis explained.
Barbers Against Hunger’s yearly calendar starts in May with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Juvenile Diabetes Walk, continues with car washing and ends with a coat drive Dec. 16 in the parking lot between the Valley Barber Shop and the Justice Center.
The group donates half of the goods it collects during the food drive to Auburn Food Bank and the other half to the multi-service center in Federal Way.
Green, an Air Force veteran and a carpenter, described how the Barbers got started.
“We’re all friends who donate our money and our time. We all started doing the Juvenile Diabetes Walk. We decided then we could also start raising money ourselves. We decided we were getting a little ambitious, so we narrowed our focus to Auburn and Federal Way.”
Green said he and Barbers Against Hunger President Randy Simon, who owns the Valley Barber Shop, ran around “like crazy” trying to line up donations for the Thanksgiving feed.
“The mayor was on board as soon as we brought it up to him,” Green said of Mayor Pete Lewis. “He said, ‘Whatever you need,’ so we ended up getting tons of letters from the mayor to take to people. Since we don’t have our 501-C3, he said go to the Auburn Food Bank and they gave us their 501-C3 number. As soon as we got that, people started jumping on board, so all of a sudden we had all these other businesses saying ‘whatever you need.’
“We’d like to grow this thing until it’s too big for Athens Pizza shop,” Green said.
Barbers against Hunger is in the final stages of acquiring its 501-C3.