Cabarrus

Bojangles takes up veterans cause

A veterans group raising money to expand in downtown Mooresville is getting a boost from Charlotte-based restaurant chain Bojangles'.

Bojangles' is featuring the group - Welcome Home Veterans Living History Museum at Richard's Coffee Shop - on paper placemats that line food trays at 20 of its Lake Norman and Charlotte restaurants.

Each restaurant received 3,000 of the color placemats, which show a photograph of coffee-shop regular Herb Knox, a World War II veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross.

The placemats explain how coffee-shop patrons donated their military mementoes that form the museum part of the shop and how Welcome Home Veterans has run out of display room and is raising money to buy a larger location at 165 N. Main St.

At 5,500 square feet, the space is four times the size of the current location, 128 S. Main St., and will enable Welcome Home Veterans to expand its outreach programs for veterans and its educational efforts with schoolchildren.

The placemats provide the Welcome Home Veterans website address, www.WelcomeVets.com., so Bojangles patrons can donate to the organization's capital building fund.

"This is just a very generous group" that helps other vets, Bojangles' President and CEO Randy Kibler said.

Kibler visited the coffee shop/museum and planned larger location after John Hedley of Denver wrote Kibler and the heads of other major Carolinas companies this summer to seek donations to the building fund.

Hedley is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and president of the Welcome Home Veterans board of directors.

The group has now raised about $75,000 of the estimated $450,000 it needs to buy the property at 165 N. Main St. and make required repairs to operate in it, Hedley said.

The organization has a contract to buy the property from Aquesta Bank for $390,000. The bank has extended the contract to year's end, Hedley said.

Kibler said the organization has done such an inspiring job of welcoming veterans home that Bojangles' wanted to help the group however it could. It has produced placemats in the past recognizing the S.C. teacher of the year and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, Kibler said.

Bojangles' also donated refreshments for an Oct. 29 road rally fundraiser for Welcome Home Veterans. The rally started and ended at the coffee shop.

Point Blank Range on N.C. 150 was a stop on the rally and held a benefit for the veterans group as part of its grand opening that day. It raised at least $20,000..

Bojangles', meanwhile, also is considering helping refurbish a full-size kitchen in the back of the space at 165 N. Main. "Bojangles' has been super," Hedley said.

Because of its deep roots here - Bojangles' is a biscuits and fried chicken chain founded in Charlotte in 1974 - the company considers itself more than a business, Kibler said: "We're part of North Carolina, part of the Charlotte area, and they're part of us."

Marusak: 704-987-3670.

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