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Lackawanna College President Jill Murray announces the creation of the school's Rally for Restaurants program in mid-September. She is flanked by Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, right, and Stephanie Decker, program director.  

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

As we head into the final stretch of a most challenging year, that famous Helen Keller quote really rings true. It’s an eloquent and accurate summary of the collaborative spirit for which our region is so well known. A prime example is the recent launch of Rally for Restaurants, a new initiative designed to support local restaurants while enhancing the educational experience for students enrolled in the Kiesendahl School of Hospitality and Tourism at Lackawanna College.

Through a partnership between Lackawanna College, the city of Scranton and Scranton Tomorrow, Rally for Restaurants invites local chefs to work with students and use the facilities at the college’s student-operated restaurant, 409 on Adams, every Tuesday and Wednesday evening through November.

The structure of the program is impressive. The college has created an elegant outdoor dining space that adheres to social distance guidelines in its courtyard on Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton. The courtyard is tented and outdoor heaters are added to the setting as needed. Guests make reservations in advance, and are required to adhere to all current health and safety guidelines as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Under the direction of participating chefs, students fulfill roles in the front of the house and back of the house. Lackawanna College provides tables, chairs and ingredients for each meal prepared in the college’s kitchen and revenue for the evening benefits participating restaurants.

Stephanie Decker, executive director of social and economic impact at Lackawanna College, developed the initiative to resolve an issue weighing heavily on her mind. “I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to open 409 on Adams, our student-run restaurant,” she said. “409 on Adams gives our students meaningful, hands-on experience that is vital to the rigor of our programs as we prepare them for the culinary industry. However, I couldn’t wrap my mind around taking even one diner away from our restaurants that need business so desperately. Then it dawned on me: restaurants have a problem, too. Many don’t have ample outdoor seating. They’re struggling to find and pay for help and they’re recovering economically from the shutdown.”

The college had students who needed practical experience and it would purchase menu items as learning tools whether 409 on Adams was open to the public or not. “Rally for Restaurants was a synergistic way to solve both problems. Now, our students have the opportunity to learn the menus and techniques used by Scranton’s finest local chefs while restaurant owners gain an entire student workforce in the kitchen and dining room. They can use our food supplies and invite the public into our huge outdoor heated dining area, and keep all the profits,” Decker said. “That’s the magic of partnerships and collaboration.”

Rally for Restaurants opened on Sept. 29 to a sold-out dining courtyard. To learn more, and to make reservations, visit https://www.lackawanna.edu/academics/kiesendahl-school-culinary-arts-hospitality-management/409-on-adams/rally-for-restaurants/.

Scranton Tomorrow spearheads several initiatives to boost the local economy as part of our Fall Into Downtown campaign, including the creation of downtown dining and shopping guides. Housed on Scranton Tomorrow’s website, the guides will serve as a resource for people interested in shopping and dining local. We’re building these directories as a service to the downtown business district, at no cost to the businesses listed.

In addition, our Downtown Drive-Thru promotion reminds everyone that downtown Scranton retailers and restaurants offer the convenience of curbside delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re hope to scare up some downtown business as part of the new Scranton Scarecrow Display. Through Oct. 31, you’ll see scarecrows designed by downtown businesses on display in planters and storefronts, adding to the natural beauty and charm of our downtown in the fall.

Leslie Collins is the Executive Director of Scranton Tomorrow, a community nonprofit group.

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