The Salvation Army and The Reef Restaurant

A volunteering interview by: Lauren Tallichet

John Tallichet, President of Specialty Restaurant Corporation, a Southern California based second-generational restaurant company, has volunteered with his family at The Reef Restaurant in Long Beach when it hosts annually with The Salvation Army those less fortunate on Christmas Day. Over 2,000 people are fed at the breakfast in dedication to bring joy to those in need. After the families eat together, the children make their way to the exit of the restaurant where they are presented with a grand selection of toys. John and his family have volunteered for over twenty years and say that this is always the highlight of the year. “Getting up Christmas morning and serving the needy at The Reef is extremely rewarding and makes Christmas an even more special day” says John. John assists in the collection of toys for teenagers who in the past have been forgotten due to the fact that in previous years, the donation of toys have been for the younger kids. Other members that are active on this day are John’s wife, mother, two children, his brother, brother’s wife and kids, staff of the reef, and other volunteers who dedicate their Christmas to the less fortunate. On the day of the event, he delivers toys and he and his family hand them out to the teenagers after the attending families have finished a warm Christmas Day meal. The excitement on the kids’ faces and the feeling of satisfaction that the day was very special to them is extremely rewarding to John.

The Inspiration

John is greatly inspired by his mom and dad who began this extraordinary tradition over thirty-five years ago. He remembers as a child going to his father’s different restaurants on Christmas Day that served meals for those who typically would not get a warm meal on Christmas Day. His parents always made Christmas a family tradition of giving back to the community. John continues to volunteer because of the great amount of effort put in by the staff at The Reef and other community groups including The Salvation Army. John receives much of his motivation from solely the amount of volunteerism stating, “It is truly inspiring to see all those who get up early on Christmas Day dedicating themselves by serving the less fortunate. Some people get there as early as four or five in the morning.” In addition to those who wake up early, John is significantly inspired by the ones who spend many months before Christmas knitting socks and gathering other clothing items to give away that morning. The Long Beach Fire Department gathers toys throughout the year and his children and other volunteers spend time preparing for this special day. John claims that it is truly inspiring to see all the work put into this Christmas morning event and all the people who donate so much time and effort to make others happy. John proudly says that it “wouldn’t be Christmas if we weren’t able to be part of this event each year on Christmas Day at The Reef.”

The Aha! moment…

Being a part of this experience every year teaches John the importance of giving back in contrast to receiving. He learns that there are many people who are less fortunate and that, for them, getting the opportunity to feel blessed in receiving a warm meal, listening to Christmas music, and even get their face-painted is extremely special to them making Christmas a joyful day. Each year, John immerses himself with those who come in to eat, spending time getting to know and serving the guests. With the interactions that he has with the less fortunate who attend, John learns the importance of Christmas time and sees the happy faces that volunteerism can create. In addition, the annual event at the restaurant has been very rewarding to John because he sees the impact that it has on his children. It teaches his kids selflessness and to help out the community as much as possible. John greatly appreciates the time he is able to spend with his family serving hundreds of other families and the power that one event can do for a community. Seeing familiar volunteers each year, John recognizes that it’s not only for the people The Reef serves, but it is also for the returning faces of those hoping to make a difference in many lives.

To summarize it in three words…

Influential, meaningful, dedication

Why should you do this

Because serving at The Reef has been such an important family tradition of volunteerism for years that has grown greatly to friends and other volunteers from all around, John see’s each year how powerful and important serving the community is. He views volunteering as a way to give thanks for all that he has by serving others. John greatly recommends that others volunteer and serve as much as possible, helping one’s community and those surrounding.

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