As of this fall, the annual Red & Black Café contributions donated to the Wesleyan Fund have exceeded $38,000.
After years of helping the school by providing numerous donations of both money and food, the owners of Red & Black Café, Ed Thorndike ’89 and Karen Kaffen-Polascik, decided to further increase their impact within the campus community.
As a graduate of the University, Thorndike said that he has always felt very passionate about the welfare and success of the school.
“I’m an alum, and so I’ve always contributed every year to the annual fund,” he said. “We [Thorndike and Kaffen-Polascik], for years, have made varying different donations over time. There was never anything that was consistent.”
The Café, which was founded in 2003, is now nearing its 10th year of service. After some early successes, the pair had the idea to link their donations with the proceeds of the restaurant. Both owners felt that the University and Café already had a strong relationship. However, instead of occasionally providing services for the school, Thorndike and Kaffen-Polascik decided that they would donate a predetermined contribution semi-annually to financial aid.
Their one percent campaign commenced in the beginning of 2005, and for the past seven years the Red & Black Café has been contributing one percent of their gross sales to University financial aid.
In 2009, the owners decided to focus their donations on the Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 Memorial Scholarship Fund. Earlier in May of that year, Justin-Jinich, a University student and long-time employee of the Red & Black Café, was shot to death while working in the Café. The Fund was established after community members expressed interest in commemorating and honoring her life.
“By being owners of the Café and by being directly involved in the event of the shooting, we were very much wanting to do something in support of Johanna,” Thorndike said. “When it was announced that there was going to be a scholarship in her name…we realized that we wanted to direct it specifically to that endowed scholarship because that was just something that was obviously more personal to us.”
For the future, the owners intend to continue committing to their one percent contributions as well as carrying out additional efforts to help out the student community. They will continue to assist smaller student-run events by donating food and supplies.
“The students are our main customers, and we’re tied to the University,” Throndike said. “It’s good just to help other people out as they come to us for help.”