Popular restaurant turns profits over to hospital unit
October 23, 2012 | Mike Cohen - Quebec Bureau Chief
Tony Antonopoulos, Nick Kefalas, Vahan Hudaverdi of the restaurant and Nancy Rubin and Merle Klam of the hospital auxiliary take a break during the exceptional fundraiser presented by Aux Vieux Duluth Restaurant. (Photo: Mike Cohen)
MONTREAL – It is not every day that a charitable institution hears from the owners of a popular restaurant with an offer to dedicate all proceeds from a single day to that cause. Yet that is what occurred last week at the Au Vieux Duluth Restaurant location in St. Laurent, located on the main drag of Marcel Laurin Boulevard.
The Jewish General Hospital Auxiliary walked away the big winner. More than $10,000 was raised for the Teenage Health Unit (THU) of the 100-year-old Goldman Herzl Family Practice Centre. For a minimum contribution of $20, folks got to select a full course meal, enjoy some entertainment and draws for door prizes.
Au Vieux Duluth has 33 locations across Quebec and Ontario. It is a bring-your-own-wine Greek restaurant regularly frequented by members of the Jewish community.
“The owners of this restaurant really went over the top for us in terms of their generosity,” said Merle Klam from the auxiliary.
Co-owners Vahan Hudaverdi and Nick Kefalas and long-time manager Tony Antonopoulos shared with the Jewish Tribune why the Jewish General Hospital is so dear to their hearts.
Hudaverdi, who also supervises all of the restaurants in the chain, only needs to look back on his father’s recent diagnosis with lymphoma.
“We took him to the Jewish General and he told us, ‘This is the beginning of the end for me.’ Well eight treatments later he recovered. He is 81 now and last summer he was able to travel home to Greece again. This and the fact I am the father of teens made supporting the auxiliary so important.”
Antonopoulos, 47, was even more blunt.
“The hospital saved my life four years ago,” he said. “I had a heart attack and a stroke, a six-artery bypass. I needed a pacemaker and I was in a coma for 33 days.”
The hospital is still in the midst of a year-long celebration to mark the Herzl Centre’s centennial. It provides a wide range of medical and social services, including obstetrical and maternal child care, a breastfeeding clinic and adolescent and geriatric health care. Consultants are also on site in such fields as pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry and surgery. Also a recent addition is the Herzl CRIU Walk-In Centre, featuring interdisciplinary care designed to diminish congestion in the Emergency Room.
Established in 1912, the centre was originally named The Herzl Hospital and Dispensary in honour of Theodore Herzl, the founding figure of modern political Zionism. As the first Jewish clinic in Canada, it offered Montreal’s Jewish poor much needed medicine and healthcare at no or little charge. The dispensary was a precursor of the Jewish General Hospital and along with the Hebrew Maternity Hospital, helped pave the way for its founding.
In the 1940s, the dispensary developed into the Herzl Health Centre, which shifted focus from curing disease to preventive medicine in response to the changing needs of the community. In 1974 it merged with the Jewish General Hospital and became the Herzl Family Practice Centre of the Department of Family Medicine, offering a full range of family health services to a diverse community.
As for the Centre’s Teen Health Unit, it was established 25 years ago to provide comprehensive primary care to teenagers while giving cutting-edge training to family medicine residents in an approach to adolescent medicine that addresses medical and psychosocial problems. The THU runs an outreach program, in which visits to high schools throughout the greater Montreal region are arranged on a weekly basis, providing an interactive bio-psychosocial educational service to thousands of teens. They meet with youngsters in Grades 8 and 10, asking them to anonymously submit questions that are later answered. Drugs, sex, and depression are the most frequent issues raised.