Dream Dinners Honors Franchisees at Annual Convention

Franchisees go above and beyond during one of the worst hurricane seasons in recent memory

Dream Dinners recognized two standout franchisees at this year’s national convention. When their communities were faced with natural disasters, these franchisees met the challenge head-on with a spirit of service and generosity.

No Power in Pinecrest? No Problem. - Heart of Service Award Winner Nina Ortiz

Pinecrest, Fla. franchisee Nina Ortiz works year-round to get families back around the dinner table. She also has three children and manages to juggle sports and after-school activities, so she understands the importance of sitting down as a family to enjoy a nourishing meal.

When Hurricane Irma hit, the Pinecrest team prepared for the worst knowing many members of their community might be affected. The Dream Dinners store lost power for about 48 hours. When it was restored, one freezer was still not working properly and all of the meat in the store was rapidly thawing.

They had a decision to make: either donate the food or toss it. Instead of just throwing the food away, Ortiz acted quickly and made a Facebook Live post in which she offered it all for free to anyone who needed it.

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When all was said and done, she gave away more than $4,000 in product. Many families in the community, as well as a few local firehouse crews were fed with food that someone else may have just thrown away.

"Knowing that the inventory would soon be a complete loss, I simply couldn’t just throw it out. I needed to ensure it went to families throughout the community,” said Ortiz. “Making sure that people had food on their tables was so important and my first priority.”

Many customers told the staff that they were able to feed displaced friends and family members during the storm—and that they would not have been able to do so without Ortiz’s generosity.

In the days following Hurricane Irma, Ortiz offered her store as a place for people to come cool off, charge their cellphones, or get a free cup of coffee since so many people were still without power. Ortiz said helping others helped her stay sane during the crisis.

"We had fully prepared meals, salmon filets, steak, shrimp and chicken, plus a number of sides – everything was distributed,” she said. “What started as an agonizing and depressing day ended in neighbors coming together, hugging each other, generously donating avocados to share and trying to contribute in any way they could. It truly couldn’t have ended better."

 

Pearland Dream Dinners Proves Hurricane Harvey is no Match for the Heart of Texas - Largest Impact Award Winner Tania Monroy

When Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Gulf Coast, it left a devastating and lasting impact in its wake. Many in Houston and the surrounding areas had lost everything. Pearland, Texas franchisee Tania Monroy knew they needed to take immediate action.

Monroy and the Pearland team started working to prepare meals and taking them to the people and the areas where Harvey hit hardest. From the back of a pick-up truck, she and her family members fed many in need as well as first responders. She worked tireless hours with volunteers, focusing on areas that were in need of food and water. 

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Already scheduled for Sept. 9, the Pearland Dream Dinners, together with its partner Friends & Family Community Connection, worked to make sure all 60,000 meals packaged at their Fight Against Hunger Event would be donated to residents of Brazoria County. (A few pallets also went to Mexico City after the earthquake.) 

The Work Isn’t Over
In the days after the storm, Monroy personally contacted her Dream Dinners guests and opened the store so they didn’t have to stand in long lines at grocery stores—many of which were facing supply shortages themselves.

The team contacted local churches and agencies to donate clothing, blankets and personal items. The store also provided storage for some food items from the Houston Food Bank until it could be distributed. Monroy was an invaluable resource in directing people to areas that could provide assistance in the Pearland area. 

But Monroy knows this is only the beginning. There is still much to do to rebuild Houston and its surrounding communities, so she and her team are still working.

The neighboring city of Alvin, Texas was hit particularly hard by Harvey. The Pearland Dream Dinners team has been working with Dream Dinners partner Friends & Family Community Connection to continue to help those who bore the brunt of the storm. They are working to rebuild homes that need to be completely gutted; many of these homeowners did not have flood insurance, the time, or the means to rebuild, and had to take off from work (without pay) to work on rebuilding efforts. 

Monroy has been able to work in conjunction with several local churches and rotary clubs to not only help with rebuilding efforts, but to feed and house volunteers. The Pearland store has continued to take in donations to buy grocery gift cards for families in need, and has given out Dream Dinners meals to those affected.

“There is so much going on here and many people continue to lend a hand,” said Monroy. “Without all this help from people within and outside our community, there would be people who may never get back in their homes. Thanks to them, and many in our community, we hope to help people restore their lives as quickly as possible.”

Monroy was recognized by Dream Dinners as a hardworking, hands-on Dream Dinners business owner. She is a community leader, wife and mother with a true servant's heart. She is also the current President of her local Rotary Club, involved with the Professional Women in Business Club, Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, and has hosted meal packaging events assembling 90,000 meals in 2016 and 60,000 meals in 2017.