Tahoe restaurateurs help feed in time of need
Special to the Tribune
When Shelly Rigisich heard that firefighters and first responders to the Caldor Fire were relying on food from vending machines to eat, she knew she had to do something.
Rigisich’s restaurant — Rookies Sports Bar & Grill — is on the North Shore while most of the South Lake Shore has been evacuated because of the fire. Every evening since that call, she and her staff have made and delivered approximately 100 meals a day to send to the front lines. Joined by other business owners on her side of the lake, Rigisich sends various meals and snacks to firefighters.
“We’ve got clearance to get a car down to all the roadblocks and (we’ve) been driving into the zone with the food at 5 o’clock every night,” she said. “They’re just so grateful, at least for giving them some hearty good food. Also the community bought all kinds of Gatorade and water and protein bars.”
Rigisich got the initial call at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and with her staff of four workers and a restaurant closed to customers, the restaurant was able to prepare the first load within a couple of hours.
Rigisich said Rookies has served as a headquarters for neighbors and restaurants to drop off supplies to send to the front lines. On Wednesday, Rigisich said they were able to take 200 wraps for first responders to stick in their pockets while they work, and Thursday night’s run was set to feature ribs, mashed potatoes and green beans from Jason’s Beachside Grille.
“(Firefighters are) coming off their shifts, and they’re hungry, as you can imagine,” she said. “The least we can do is bring them something hearty to be strong out there doing the good fight.”
Unfortunately, it’s not only first responders that have had trouble accessing fresh meals, she said. Families and citizens of the evacuation areas who were not able to get out as quickly also receive resources and food from the hauls.
“We’ve been closed for business, and we’re just doing the food for the firefighters,” Rigisich added. “But we had several people yesterday — maybe seven or eight — that came in little groups that were like, ‘We just were evacuated, and we just want to eat something.’ We made some pizzas for them since many have ended up in hotels.”
Debbie Brown, owner of Cold Water Brewery in South Lake Tahoe, evacuated to Mammoth and said that she offered her entire stock of food to the fire department, including everything in her walk-in fridge. She said that though the fire department told her they had the resources needed to support the firefighters, the offer of her food still stands.
Brown helped feed leadership when the command post was established.
“Cold Water was pretty much built on the community’s love and support,” Brown said. “And so our goal was to stay as long as we could, help the command post and make sure that we were a piece and a component of the efforts (to keep Lake Tahoe safe). But once we went from (an evacuation) warning to order, we couldn’t stay any longer.”
This kind of giving, Brown said, is simply what anyone from Lake Tahoe would do.
“There’s not a business that wouldn’t,” Brown said. “It was an opportunity to figure out a way to give, and there’s not a business that wouldn’t do that.”
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