The co-owner of a Greenville restaurant is happy his effort to raise money for a national immigration group became a positive counterpoint to criticism of the community based on chanting crowds at last week’s campaign rally for President Donald J. Trump.
Matt Scully, co-owner of The Scullery, posted a sign on his restaurant door last Wednesday saying 100 percent of that day’s proceeds would be donated to the American Immigration Council “in order to help with the immigration crisis at our southern border.”
Scully said the action was not designed to criticize or protest the president’s visit but to celebrate the diversity of the community and the customers he has served since 2011.
However, the gesture became more meaningful when the crowd at the Trump rally started chanting “send her back” in response to the president’s criticism of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and three other outspoken freshmen congresswoman.
The chant prompted an onslaught of criticism, labeling the Greenville community and East Carolina University as racist.
At the same time, Scully’s Facebook post on the donation was spreading across social media. Scully said he started getting calls and messages from media outlets.
Starting last Thursday, “Newsweek”, CNN, “People” and other national news organizations and websites were running stories about the donation.
“It was exciting to share such a positive story and to tell a different story about our city; to provide a counterweight to all the negative press we were receiving,” Scully said. “It was a really honor to be able to do that. To remind people this is a wonderful place to live, a wonderful place to do business.”
Operating The Scullery is a daily reminder of how great the United States is and how people from different backgrounds are able to come together and collectively enjoy a cup of coffee and a plate of pancakes, he said.
Scully said he wasn’t being disrespectful of the president. He is a father of three children, ages 10, 5 and 1, and it’s been difficult to hear stories about young children being separated from their parents and not having basic needs met, such as bathing or brushing their teeth.
“That’s a lifelong trauma they are never going to recover from,” he said.
Along with the stories about family separations, Scully said he thought about how the nation’s diversity starts will immigration.
“We are all immigrants. We all have come here from a different place, we are all here together and those differences make uses stronger,” he said. He chose the American Immigration Council because it is a large nonprofit making a big difference.
“It seemed like they were doing a lot of good work and they had great financial records as a not-for-profit,” he said. “It seemed liked a worthy organization that I’d hope wouldn’t be controversial.”
The council is an advocacy group that works to improve the immigration system by lobbying for change in the laws and representing immigrants at hearings by working with parent organizations.
The council and its partners provided legal services to 15,296 families detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, in 2018, including 236 parents who were separated from the children and detained in El Paso, Texas.
This year, the organization and its partners have served more than 7,000 families, said Megan Hess, American Immigration Council fundraising and development director.
Immigrant families who have legal representation are 10 times more likely to have a positive outcome than individuals without representation, she said.
Hess said when the council’s social media director first shared a post about The Scullery donation she “got a little bit of a vibe” that something was about to happen.
“We were so amazed that something that was so community-based (was) lifted up to the national level,” Hess said. “It was something so positive about immigration that got lifted up to the national level; it was so awesome.
“We don’t see positive messaging about immigration, but to see a community step up in this way is what got us interested in what was going on,” she said.
The Scullery sent $5,615 to the American Immigration Council. Another $1,500 has been raised through a donation button that he attached to the original post on Sunday.
Not everyone liked Scully’s decision. He received negative comments but he said it’s not extreme.
“It is very difficult to know we upset a lot of customers that we happen to disagree with on a lot of things but who we still appreciate and care about,” he said. The vast majority of reactions have been positives, he said, including telephone calls from across the nation.
He also received a lot of questions about what the restaurant does to support the local community.
“I usually don’t talk about that ... but that hurt a little bit because we really care about our community and we really work hard and contribute in a lot of ways — financially and with our time and our energy — so I wanted to share something positive about that, which told the rest of the story about who we are,” he said.
He shared a post listing the approximately two dozen groups the restaurant has supported through the years, police and fire-rescue events, youth organizations, the arts and organizations that fight substance abuse and aid individuals with HIV.
The restaurant also supports the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, JOY Soup Kitchen and St. Paul’s Episcopal Food Pantry, including making soup for the latter’s annual Stone Soup fundraiser.
Scully attached a donation button so people can help the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. As of early Monday evening, the post has raised $380.
Scully said he’s ready to get back to the work of “making coffee and pancakes and making people smile.
“That’s what we do best, it’s our favorite thing to do,” he said.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570.