Abby Halpern

Tuesday, 26 November 2002 06:52

Eat your heart out

When you talk to Matt Harper about his restaurant and experience his contagious enthusiasm, it's not hard understand how he and partner Eddie Cerino, their employees at Eddie's Creekside Restaurant and the citizens of Brecksville raised nearly $17,000 for a family which lost a husband and father in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The fund-raising idea was born after Harper attended a vigil for his neighbor, Bill Moskal, an executive who died while working at the World Trade Center.

Harper had "an overwhelming feeling" his restaurant could help the Moskal family, so he called an employee meeting Sept. 16. Every employee attended, eager with ideas to help Bill Moskal's his wife, Lorraine, and their teen-aged daughter and son.

"We needed to raise as much money as we could, as fast as we could," Harper says.

They decided to host a fund-raiser on a Sunday -- the restaurant's busiest day -- and donate all profits to the family. Additional employees joined the regular shift, and everyone agreed to donate their pay and tips.

Harper also sent out press releases to the media, the community and surrounding businesses and vendors to draw people to the event.

The day began with a prayer for those lost in the attacks. Neighbors poured coffee. Television stations and newspapers covered the event. And Brecksville firefighters collected money for the families of the New York firefighters who perished.

That day, nearly 1,300 people ate at the restaurant, setting a record.

"There was a line out the door the entire day," Harper says. "Nobody minded giving up their tables after they were done eating so others could sit down, and people even ordered take-out."

Soon after, Harper and Cerino took a check to an emotional Lorraine Moskal, who told them not to take anything for granted.

Harper says the fund-raiser was successful due in part to his employees' generosity.

"Get your employees involved in what you want to do, and let them help do it," he says. "If you let them shape policy, they will take ownership of it. It generates pride and teamwork."

Eddie's also regularly contributes food and gift certificates to local schools, churches and organizations.

"Some small businesses look at contributions as a cost. We look at it as an investment in the community," Harper says. "Every action causes a reaction. Good things happen when you do good things."

How to reach: Eddie's Creekside Restaurant: (440) 546-0555.