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Executive Chat - January 2021

Interview with Sheila Bennett, Executive Director of CORE, January 2021 Update

By Rebecca Patt, SVP Development, Wray Executive Search

Sheila Bennett is Executive Director of CORE - Children of Restaurant Employees - a non-profit that offers monetary grants and support for restaurant employees with children affected by a medical crisis or natural disaster. CORE grants help restaurant employees to cover housing expenses and other basic needs to help them get through the crisis. The non-profit quickly grew in 2020 to meet the burgeoning needs of restaurant employees diagnosed with COVID-19.

What is new with CORE with its outreach to restaurant employee families in need and its fundraising efforts?

In 2020, CORE was able to help 542 families, which is five times the number of families we supported compared to 2019. Ideally, I would like to double this amount in 2021. We have now granted to all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We are proud that were able to meet the rise in need due to the generous contributions of our corporate partners such as Barefoot Wines EJ Gallo, Jose Cuervo Tequila, Patrón and Tito’s Handmade Vodka as well as track and measure our progress. While we have established a conservative goal to raise $3.1m for 2021, the demand will be much greater as the visibility of CORE increases. I believe that we will be able to raise more funds if we can engage the supplier community for robust partnerships.

Who does CORE serve? Does one need to be a parent taking care of a child to qualify for assistance from CORE?

The first qualification is that the employee must have children to qualify for a grant from CORE.  We serve food and beverage operations employees with children, when either the parent or child faces a health crisis, injury, death, or a natural disaster. Employees can apply online or anyone can refer a family through

How has CORE changed and grown during the pandemic?

In 2020, we were able to support 438 applicants who turned to us because of COVID-19. Based on the increased demand for CORE we have implemented new and efficient systems that help us process more grant applications and provide aid to more families in need. In addition, we have bolstered the staff for all our disciplines to navigate the needs of our grantees and provide better resources for our corporate partners.

How would you like to expand awareness about CORE and its mission? How can people get involved as grant applicants and supporters?

In 2020, we recognized that the need for CORE was great and we are one of the best kept secrets in the industry. We are working to increase awareness to employees who need CORE through strong operator and state restaurant association relationships. In addition, we are introducing CORE to the supplier community and would like to invite all suppliers to support CORE to help employees in our industry.

Can you think of a moving story that stands out among the people CORE has helped?

There are so many heart-warming stories that it is a challenge to select just one. We receive numerous emails and notes of gratitude from families that CORE helps. A few months ago, I received a call from the head of marketing for Hickory Tavern that one of their employees needed CORE. The employee, a single mom had a daughter who was diagnosed with leukemia. A team member of the Hickory Tavern Team completed the online referral page at and we provided financial relief for rent, utilities, and necessities to help her navigate through diagnosis and treatment. In addition, a line cook at Jake's Burgers lost their home and all their possessions in a devastating fire. Jake's Vice President of Operations and Marketing referred the employee to CORE and we were able to help cover the costs of essentials that helped the family get back on their feet.

When employees rely on a weekly income to make ends meet, the financial hardship that a medical crisis or natural disaster can create added stress to the situation. We are grateful that CORE is here to help operations employees with children in the industry that I love.

To learn more about CORE, applying for a grant, or donating to CORE, go to

Rebecca Patt specializes in recruiting top talent for the restaurant, food service, and food and beverage industry with Wray Executive Search. She can be reached at

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