SONOMA (KPIX 5) — The owner of Glen Ellen Star in Sonoma stepped up during the devastating North Bay fires to give first responders a little star treatment.
Ari Weiswasser got the order to close his Sonoma restaurant temporarily when the Glass Fire swept through the North Bay in late September, destroying hundreds of homes.
“We were just unable to operate. Even though the fires didn’t come close to us, we were just not open,” said Weiswasser.
“Our first response was to feed the first responders,” he explained.
So he and his staff baked 100 pizzas a day for fire fighters, PG&E workers, police and other first responders.
“They were very appreciative,” smiled Weiswasser. “Fist pumps, hugs even. It felt great.”
In ten days, Glen Ellen Star gave away 1,000 pizzas and partnered with other restaurants to feed emergency crews.
When Weiswasser publicized his project over social media, $40,000 in donations poured in.
Even after the fire, those donations allow Ari to keep giving to nonprofits like the Salvation Army, as it serves Napa fire survivors and first responders.
Susan Farren is founder and executive director of the nonprofit, First Responders Resiliency Inc.
She says Weiswasser has generously provided hundreds of free meals at her workshops that train emergency personnel to cope with trauma in their high-stress jobs.
“That desire to serve others in a way that’s not for the moment, in the limelight, that’s all about character and integrity,” Farren said.
The chef says all he’s doing is thanking his community for helping keep his business afloat during the pandemic with take-out and dining outside in the cold and rain.
“This community, for as much as its been through, they really stand up; really support you,” said Weiswasser.
So for feeding his community’s first responders in time of crisis and beyond this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Ari Weiswasser.