One of my favorite places to visit when travel involved a layover at Chicago Midway International Airport was the Potbelly Sandwich Shop. It was the only restaurant of any airport for which I was willing to stand in an absurdly long line, even if it meant bolting down the concourse because the flight attendant was now announcing “last call” to all passengers. When I stepped off the plane at Midway last summer in anticipation of my Potbelly Italian sandwich you can only imagine my reaction at discovering the chain’s busiest location had been closed. My six year old son tried to console me before offering to call my husband, whose luck was no better. I settled for the sub-par personal pizza (with its 4 pepperoni slices) offered by Potbelly’s replacement and pouted between every bite. So imagine my reaction after learning that a Potbelly Sandwich Shop was slated to open RIGHT HERE in the Mid South in February of this year!
My excitement was so over the top that I mistook Monday, February 12 for the shop’s opening date of Monday, February 19 and realized my error only after having driven the 23 miles from Downtown Memphis to Olive Branch, Mississippi. Luckily the location’s franchisee, Fabian Nelson, was there overseeing the finishing touches and while he pointed out with pride the uniqueness of this shop’s décor, he also shared with me his first order of business once the restaurant was ready to receive customers. It wasn’t to comb through the books at the end of the day and determine how much of a profit was made but to donate that entire day’s proceeds- yes, 100%- to local non-profit Desoto Grace.
Before the walls’ paint was dry, Nelson had long determined that giving back to the community would be a vital part of his Potbelly operation. Before the restaurant had been open even 24 hours, he had opened his heart- and wallet- to some of our community’s families and children who need it most.
A dear friend, somehow unaware of my obsession with sandwiches, visited me a few days ago. We talked and laughed and naturally my “happy space” included mention of the Mid South’s first Potbelly Sandwich Shop. To my utter shock she wasn’t very familiar with its menu (please try a Chocolate Brownie Cookie!) but was very familiar with its newly-planted philanthropy. She and her daughters are volunteer tutors with Desoto Grace and were excited to learn of Nelson’s commitment to the organization.
Desoto Grace is an organization wherein, truly, grace is extended to everyone involved; an organization that believes “people are the greatest and most valuable resource.” They embody a do-as-I-do concept that encourages its employees and volunteers to create meaningful relationships through “serving, learning, playing, and resourcing.” As my friend explained to me, it isn’t merely about helping a child through academic challenges; it’s also about inviting that child over for Game Night with her family.
Building relationships isn’t one-dimensional and neither is the involvement in the lives of those who are part of Desoto Grace’s various programs which include an Education and Activities Program year-round and Community Involvement and Summer School Programs during the summer.
Maybe you’re a sandwich-lover, an advocate for better access to education regardless of zip code, a supporter of whole-person wellness for everyone regardless of socio-economic background, or all three. When visiting Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Olive Branch you are not only satisfying your sweet sandwich tooth but also supporting a local entrepreneur who has chosen to pay it forward and is helping people in his community move towards fulfilling their own goals just as he is fulfilling his.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop is now open at 5400 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, Mississippi.
Visit www.desotograce.org to learn more about the organization.
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