GiveIt4Ward and Circa 1922
Fund-raising efforts through 4/30
Circa 1922 • 8 North Front Street
Forget the black-tie fund-raisers and gala hopping; for folks in Wilmington, giving back is as easy as heading downtown for a fantastic meal. Circa 1922, ongoing winner in encore’s annual Best Of poll for desserts and appetizers, is offering everyone in the port city a chance to give back to the charity of their choice. Ash Aziz of the Circa 1922 Group and John Fife of GiveIt4Ward.org (G4) have partnered through April 30th, wherein 4 percent of a diner’s total bill will automatically be donated to the nonprofit of his or her choosing—at no additional cost. At the end of April, all the funds donated by Circa will be dispersed by G4 to the designated charities.
“This fund-raising campaign is unique because the customer chooses the charity,” Fife, G4’s co-founder, says. “There are 1.8 million registered nonprofits in the United States . . . I wanted to allow more people to experience the power of giving without necessarily having to involve additional money.”
Fife’s original foray into the charity world came nearly a decade ago during a trip to Jamaica. He befriended a local taxi driver who was forced to work constantly just to get by, causing him to miss out on spending time with his young daughter. Fife ended up buying the driver’s cab in return for his promise to take days off with his daughter and to do something nice for three people he didn’t know.
“That act wound up buying four cabs and taking three young men off the streets who were disadvantaged youths,” Fife says. “I saw first-hand seven years later the power and the transformation that had occurred not only with his life but [with] the young men he employed.”
Fife then traveled to Eastern Europe with his son in 2010 and spoke with a friend who was attending a graduate-school program for philanthropy. One of the friend’s professors asked her, “What can we do that will change the world 100 years from now?” Fife pondered the question, too, and came up with G4 as a way to bring together the Internet and the concept of paying it forward. Fife insists his current fund-raising efforts wouldn’t be possible without Aziz, one of Wilmington’s most successful restaurateurs, who owns and operates Circa 1922, Brasserie du Soleil, The Kitchen, Boca Bay and another new venture soon to be opened in Mayfaire. “The name recognition and quality of his restaurants helps us to reach charitable organizations,” Fife says.
Fife hopes to carry the opportunity to the other eateries, as well, which in essence could lead to greater expansion and a greater philanthropic impact. “If this is successful we’ll definitely see about having a second round of testing or possibly implementing something like this on a permanent basis,” Fife notes.
So far the Wilmington community has been extremely supportive of Circa and G4’s efforts. Circa’s manager Adain Buzzard tells, “During the first nine days of the campaign, we had people donate to 180 charities.” A few of the most popular organizations so far have been Cape Fear Hospice, Full Belly Project, Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Wildlife Fund.
Fife emphasizes there is a lot of potential for local charities to benefit from the endeavor. “New Hanover County has the highest concentration of charities anywhere in the state,” he says, noting that a whopping 1,800 exist here alone. “We’d love to be able to write a check to each and every one of them.”
With a new chef, Andrew Karasz, leading the helm at Circa, the 12-year-old eatery churns out signature dishes like paella, local shrimp and Guilford Mills grits, sushi and sashimi and other tapas choices. It offers an evening not only benefiting loaded hunger pangs, but those starving to support a good cause. It’s remarkably fulfilling and affordable.
“Circa has a special for appetizers during happy hour for $4,” Fife reminds, “so for the price of a fast-food meal, you can have an appetizer and an iced tea, have some fun and give to your favorite charity.”
Everyone in Wilmington has the chance to help give back to the community and possibly even start a national trend. It’s already taking form from the give-back business model seen of TOM’s Shoes, Warby Parker and even our own local kids at Half United, all of whom donate a portion of their proceeds to altruistic causes, like stopping world hunger.
“The potential for this is amazing,” Fife concurs. “If you think about how many restaurants there are in the United States, there is huge potential for this project to grow and catch on.”