Tropical Smoothie Cafe Huntley - Great Food/Great Cause

From the Northwest Herald....

Huntley café to donate all profits to area food pantry

HUNTLEY – The owners of Tropical Smoothie Café are taking their charitable works in the community to a whole new level this year.

Mike and Terri Ward, of Union, plan to donate 100 percent of the profits of the franchise restaurant located at 12162 S. Route 47 to feed the hungry through the Grafton Food Pantry.

When the Wards opened Tropical Smoothie Café, which serves healthy sandwiches, wraps and a variety of smoothies, in August 2011, they had a mission to give back, said Terri Ward, 56.

“We wanted to provide great food for the community, a place where kids can go on a date, and teach students and young people a work ethic,” she said.

The 35-seat café, whose motto is “Eat Better, Feel Better,” employs high school and local community college students as a way to provide them with spending money and work skills.

In addition, the business always has had a charitable aspect to it, Mike Ward said, citing donations to local groups, fundraising events and gift certificates for raffles.

But the Wards knew they wanted to do more.

Mike Ward, 55, cites the couple’s Christian faith and the book “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns as influences for their next step.

“What if we took this restaurant and found a way to use it to serve others,” Mike Ward said.

“Serving the least of these,” Terri Ward added.

Partnering with the Grafton Food Pantry gives the Wards a way to find those who could use help.

Because turning a restaurant into a nonprofit entity is not easy, the Wards instead created a nonprofit foundation called Dignified Dining.

The foundation allows the Wards to convert 100 percent of Tropical Smoothie Café’s profits into vouchers to be donated to the food pantry.

Mike Ward, who sold his software company in 2006, does not receive a salary from the café, and Terri earns a small amount for the catering work she does.

The aim for this year is to provide 6,000 meals, which amounts to a donation of close to $30,000, Mike Ward said.

For every meal purchased at the café, it’s possible to donate two to three vouchers to the food pantry, he said.

On March 1, the Wards presented the Grafton Food Pantry with their first 200 vouchers.

Designed to look like money, the vouchers are for adult meals including a food item, side and a drink or smoothie; kids’ meals; and smoothies.

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