Mission District restaurants are opening their doors today for a one-day and first annual Food for Thought fundrasier for Mission Graduates, a local non profit that strives to increase the number of K-12 students who are prepared for and attend college.

During today’s all-day event, 25 different restaurants in the Mission District have agreed to donate 25 to 100 percent of their food and wine profits to the organization.

“A lot of local businesses are looking for a way to engage with the community,” said Aaron Gilbert, the outdoor challenge manager at Mission Graduates. The group capitalized on that objective, sending out letters, emails and phone calls to almost every restaurant in the Mission to get participants, he said.

The goal is to raise $35,000 to benefit programs that range from tutoring, sex education, college admissions support and parent engagement.

Art Avitia, the organization’s Development Director, had previously worked with the Stop AIDS Project and adapted its annual Dining Out For Life fundraiser to suit Mission Graduates’ needs.

Typically a slow night for dining out, Wednesday’s event is a win-win for Mission Graduates, restaurants, and diners alike, said Gilbert. Ambassadors for every establishment helped launch a massive advertising campaign that made use of Facebook, evites, emails, calls and personal networking. OpenTable, Yelp, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Univision have also been used as a means to get the word out to young people who might not otherwise get the message.

Charitable work is “not always as accessible as we would want it to be,” said Gilbert, adding that “blind solicitations also don’t really fit with certainly my population of 20 somethings.”

As an ambassador for participating restaurant Panchita’s, Gilbert’s friends will be “doing something that they would do anyhow, which is eat food…with me!”

“We find that people in events like this make it that much more of a celebration” by getting a nicer wine or ordering more food than usual, said Calvin Schneiter of tapas restaurant Andalu. “It’s obviously a terrific cause and it contributes to the culture of the mission,” he added.

Events and Marketing Manager of Bar Bambino Ryan Robles said that the Italian eatery “already has a lot of people on the books” and is proud to “support the community” and join fellow restaurateurs in the neighborhood who have become good friends.

Maverick, which has also participated in the Dine Out For Life fundraiser, has experienced similar success due to the media campaign. “We’ve been booked for a week now and it’s amazing for a Wednesday night,” said owner Mike Pierce. “It’s nice because everyone’s coming out for a good cause and good food,” he said, adding that “it’s good to give back to a local charity” that is right around the corner from the restaurant.

The fundraiser also includes a raffle for prizes from all-expense paid vacations to culinary classes and boxes of wine.

“It’s a really easy way for people to take action and donate money and feel like they’re part of something,” said Gilbert. “It’s all about community building, that’s why we’re really excited about this event.”

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Born in the Sunshine State of Florida (but raised in Philly), Sade is happy to now be living and reporting in the sunniest neighborhood in San Francisco. When the high school education beat is not keeping her busy, she loves to frugally satisfy her inner food glutton (the Mission is a great place for that!) and sing (both in the shower and on stage).

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