The Hopkins Education Foundation writes oversized, lottery-style checks to grant recipients with the help of a locally-owned restaurant in Minnetonka. Ellen Cousins, a leader in the foundation for 10 years, says the philanthropy of the Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille since it reopened in May 2009 has been a great new help with fundraisers and sponsorships.
In September, the Gold Nugget hosted the foundation’s Annual Fund Kickoff and contributed $1,000 to the foundation’s coffers to improve educational opportunities for children in the school district.
“Their giving back is really felt in the community,” Cousins says. “You see a revitalized community that helps its charitable groups and it has changed the culture in that we know we can always go to the [Gold] Nugget. On any given day, I can walk in there and meet people I know.”
The Gold Nugget on Excelsior Boulevard has given more than $25,000 to more than 35 community organizations, non-profits or schools in Minnetonka, Hopkins and Eden Prairie in the last 18 months. The restaurant was established in 1976, but was closed from 2006 to 2009 while the Glen Lake area was redeveloped. Upon its reopening, the owners made community outreach one of its goals.
Kris Newcomer, who owns the restaurant with Tom Wartman and other partners, says, “We want people to feel comfortable when they come in, and show that we support as many community organizations and groups as possible.”
That sense of neighborly duty was extended across the street when Newcomer asked the Glen Lake Mighty Mites Baseball Association if they wanted to have a fundraiser at the restaurant January 31; they hope to host a similar event next year. Dan McGie, board president of the 350-player association, didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“It will definitely make an impact on our league” come this summer, McGie says. “I know margins are tight in that industry, and the fact that they wanted to do this is something we are very appreciative of.”
Sports are often broadcast on the flat-screen TVs at the Gold Nugget, and the mighty mites aren’t the only local team to benefit from the restaurant’s giving. Others squads on the receiving end include the Minnetonka football, hockey and wrestling teams, and the Hopkins football, volleyball, lacrosse and baseball programs.
With servers in blue and white jerseys, players greeting customers and Cracker Jacks on the tables, the Hopkins Royals baseball team held an April 2010 fundraiser on the same day as the Twins’ first game at Target Field.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” coach Neil Lerner says. “People were there to watch the [Twins] game, and it created a great atmosphere.”
The Gold Nugget gave the Royals $2,500 of the day’s proceeds to go toward the $40,000 renovation on their varsity field. “If we wouldn’t have had the fundraising at the Gold Nugget, we wouldn’t have had the money to do the field renovation,” Lerner says, noting it’s likely they would have found another way to raise those monies.
Senior captain and third baseman Bill Gregg says the infield had spotty grass and was as hard as asphalt. He said he would go to gather a routine ground ball, and it would sometimes take a bad hop and go over his head into the outfield for a base hit. “It became unbearable for us to play there,” Gregg says.
The Gold Nugget’s funds helped pave the way for a renovation that included new infield grass over drainage tiles so the infield can be playable soon after rain. It will be welcomed for a field that is played on about every day throughout the spring and summer. “We’ll be happy and others will be happy to play on it,” says Gregg. “It will be a great place to play.”
For Newcomer, it’s all about helping out the children who receive electronic books from the Hopkins Education Foundation or the baseball players who get new green grass. “It feels good to be a part of a restaurant that supports community,” she says, “and supports the kids.”