Owner of Jefferson's Restaurant gains national attention for military pledge

News-DemocratOctober 10, 2013 

A Belleville restaurant has received a lot of national attention for its pledge to donate profits to families of five American soldiers killed in Afghanistan after the federal government shutdown prevented the families from immediately getting death benefits.

Jim Grindstaff, owner of Jefferson's Restaurant at 6980 W. Main St., appeared on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning and on the network's evening news program Wednesday evening after pledging to give 100 percent of the business' profits from Wednesday food sales to the families.

"Maybe if one person does it 100 more will do it and it will help people out," Grindstaff explained about his motivation for collecting the money.

Grindstaff said other Jefferson's Restaurant locations in Mascoutah and Summerville, Ga., also will donate Wednesday profits to the families of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan.

In all, the three locations collected just short of $7,000 during Wednesday lunch and dinner service.

"We came up with $6,962.13 and our franchise owners threw in the difference to make it an even $10,000," Grindstaff said. "Now we're trying to find a way to get to the families which is proving to be very difficult."

Grindstaff said he is waiting for funeral arrangements for the killed soldiers to be announced so the families can be contacted through the funeral home to get their share of the proceeds. If the money can't be given directly to the families, Grindstaff said it would be given directly to Fisher House, a not for profit organization that assists military families.

Advertised through social media and word of mouth, Grindstaff said the effort to raise money for the families of the killed soldiers made Wednesday one of the busiest days in the seven-year history of the Belleville Jefferson's.

"There were a lot of people here," Grindstaff said. "It was tough to even get in the door last night. They worked us pretty hard. But we're very grateful for help and we're proud to be Americans."

After Jefferson's fundraiser was set in motion, Congress and the Pentagon moved Wednesday to restore the $100,000 death benefit received by families with a military member killed in action. The House passed the restoration 425-0 but the Senate has not yet voted on the issue. While the details are worked out, Fisher House agreed to make the payments.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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