Joe Jovanovich has a knack for connecting people. Local residents saw Jovanovich’s generous community spirit firsthand during the five years he worked for Beyond Housing, using his background in social work. His customers have seen it during the past six years since he started running his family’s historic restaurant, Pat Connolly Tavern in Dogtown.
And now he has brought those two worlds together through the new Nourish the Neighborhood program.
On Dec. 9, residents of Beyond Housing’s Vetter Place senior housing center in Pine Lawn received their first meals under the new program: the restaurant’s famous hand-battered fried chicken with two sides. Under the ongoing program, Jovanovic also donates meals to Epworth Children and Family Services, and he’s looking to add other distribution sites in neighborhoods that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are eager to be generous and support a neighborhood business and also to help folks in need. It’s a win-win,” Jovanovich said.
Pat Connolly Tavern, founded by Jovanovich’s grandfather in the 1940s, has remained closed to indoor dining during the pandemic. As colder weather approached, he was looking for new ideas to keep his remaining staff members busy; he has already laid off about two thirds of his team. He heard about a similar program at Steve’s Hot Dogs in South City and was immediately intrigued.
Nourish the Neighborhood allows Jovanovich to continue to make food and, at the same time, to be involved in the North St. Louis County community he cares about deeply, balancing his dual passions for the family business and for social work.
Each $10 donation equates to one meal at a participating nonprofit, covering both food and labor costs. Jovanovich enlisted partner organizations like Beyond Housing to help with the logistics of distribution—made even more challenging by COVID-19—and also because they know the need in their communities better than he does.
Because he was already very familiar with Beyond Housing’s holistic approach to addressing complex challenges, strengthening individuals, and transforming communities, Jovanovich knew our organization would be a great fit for Nourish the Neighborhood.
He sees donating meals is a tangible way to build bridges across differences. “Food is a connector,” Jovanovich explained. “We want people to feel that human warmth.”
As of late December, the program had surpassed his goal of providing 500 meals by Christmas and seems to be picking up steam. “We’ll keep doing it as long as the donations come in,” Jovanovich said.
“This winter could be the hardest in memory for a lot of folks,” he continued. “We’re at a point where small gestures in the face of long odds really help.”
To learn more about Nourish the Neighborhood and make a donation, visit www.patconnollytavern.com/donate-a-meal.