Breckenridge Restaurant Association dining passport program supports student scholarships
Spring 2015 Dining passport
When: April 19 to June 11
Where: passports can be purchased at participating restaurants and the Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 S. Main Street, (877) 864-0868
Cost: $10 donation
The Breckenridge Restaurant Association’s dining passport offers a chance to explore the culinary landscape in Breckenridge, while at the same time supporting local nonprofit organizations and high school students.
With the spring mud season coming up, the passport will once again be available for locals and visitors alike to take advantage of dining specials. All of the proceeds for the spring passport will go toward scholarships for graduating high school seniors who either have a parent who works in the food and beverage industry, have worked in the industry themselves or have plans to build a career in that industry.
While the Breckenridge Restaurant Association (BRA) has been in existence for more than 20 years, the passport program came into being in 2011. Every spring and fall, the $10 passport is made available as participating Breckenridge-area restaurants serve their mud season menus. Common passport deals include two-for-one meals and discounted prices.
Typically, the slow seasons between summer and winter are used by local restaurants as a chance to do some renovations, test changes to the menu or happy hour, or to close briefly for some well-earned vacation time.
“It’s a great way to size up what everybody’s doing,” said Ken Nelson, BRA president and local restaurant owner. “We try to make the offers exclusive to the dining passport holders, to maintain some of that exclusivity.”
Participation in the program has grown, he added. When it first started, around 15 restaurants were involved. Now the number consistently reaches past 20, with 24 restaurants participating this spring.
Beneficiaries of the fall program vary, but over the past few years the funds have been donated to the Summit County Cares program — an emergency assistance fund, which provides temporary financial aid for Summit County residents who are struggling with rent, utility or medical costs. The fall 2014 dining passport program raised $13,000 for Summit County Cares.
“Why it’s important to our chapter, or our industry here, is our workforce tends to utilize a lot of the services that are under that Summit County Cares umbrella,” said Nelson of the BRA’s decision to donate to the fund. “We felt that it was well worth supporting since we have such a percentage of our workforce (that) has utilized those social services directly.”
Because it approaches the end of the school year, funds from the spring dining passport program always go toward Summit High School student scholarships. Eligibility requires that students be connected to the restaurant industry in some way, either through their parents, their own work or their career aspirations. A student who has worked summers at a local coffee shop, for instance, could apply, or one who plans to attend an institute like Johnson and Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts in Denver.
Due in late November, early December, the BRA scholarship is part of the usual senior scholarship packet that the high school puts together. A high school counselor goes through the applications first, then sends the applicable ones on to the BRA, where members then read the applications themselves.
“It’s really rewarding,” said Nelson of the application review process. He’s read many compelling stories of applicants from various backgrounds. “It’s fun to see both of those in one sense, because you see the hard cases where kids are really working hard to get themselves going, and you see the other cases and they’re pursuing their dreams.”
The scholarship awards ceremony will take place in late April, which Nelson and other BRA members often attend, putting faces to the names on paper.
A CHANCE TO EXPLORE
Locals seem to be the group that most supports the dining passport program, Nelson said, more willing to come out once the tourist rush has died down and with the prospect of menu deals on the horizon. However, any weekend visitors could benefit from the program as well.
“You’re pretty much paying it back in the very first meal,” he said, “and there’s 24 restaurants to explore on this thing.”
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