TRINITY - The wait staff zipped around the corners of Bonefish's dining rooms, densely populated with tables and hungry diners, eager to get their orders right and earn great tips.
With crisp, white culinary uniforms embroidered with their names in black thread, they scribbled orders, filled drinks and supplied each table with fresh, hot bread.
Instead of using the money to pay rent or make a car payment, all the tips were to be donated to Community Aging and Retirement Services, a west Pasco organization that helps the elderly remain independent. Instead of using waiters already on the books, local celebrities were put to work as part of CARES' 2013 Celebrity Waiter Luncheon fundraiser.
There was no formal program and, instead, tip envelopes were placed on each table for local businessmen and women to make donations based on their waiter's level of service. Celebrities such as Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, competed against each other to raise the most tips. The money will help elderly Pasco residents stay at home, healthy and independent.
"Business people have to eat lunch anyway, so the idea is there are celebrity waiters responsible for inviting people here and filling the tables," said CARES CEO William Aycrigg.
The idea of a celebrity waiter luncheon isn't unique to CARES, but it's the second year that the organization has held the event. Last year, they raised $15,000 for elderly care services, and this year, the luncheon brought in $15,045 in donations.
"I love the concept," said Scott Fink, CEO of Hyundai of New Port Richey. "From a fundraising perspective, it's quick, fun, and you get to raise money for a good cause. It's a great idea and it's indicative of the turnout."
For two hours, businessmen, government officials and local law enforcement members served and bussed tables for the cause. Many came away with a greater appreciation for those working full time in the service industry.
"I have great admiration for waiters and waitresses after doing this for only half an hour so far," said Joseph Pino, a physician and CARES board member who recruited three tables' worth of people to attend.
"It's also a great way for businesses in the community to network and meet new people," said CARES public relations coordinator Brenda Martyniak. "It's popular, and people enjoy it because there's no formal program to have to sit through; we just thank them for being there."
The Bonefish Grill at 10750 State Road 54, Trinity, donated the meals and uniforms for the celebrity waiters.
For more information about CARES, visit www.caresfl.org.