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Helping Others With “Doing Well by Doing Good”

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - September 4, 2012

When it comes to volunteerism and “giving back to the community,” the Common Man family of restaurants and its founder Alex Ray would be hard to match in terms of generosity. In fact, the Common Man has become synonymous with volunteerism and its extensive charitable donations on local, state, national, and even international levels.

Founded in 1971 with one restaurant in Ashland, the Common Man has grown to encompass 17 restaurants, two inns, and a company store, and employees and staff members at each venue, both individually and collectively, help to raise money and contribute volunteer hours for various charitable efforts benefiting a wide range of non-profit organizations. These organizations range from local community groups to the New Hampshire Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and the American Red Cross, just to name a few.

With a company philosophy of “Doing Well by Doing Good,” the Common Man has demonstrated a commitment over the years to the local community by holding fundraisers and by encouraging employees to donate their time and energy to non-profit organizations and charities, including charities of personal interest, and employees are given some paid time off to do so.

As the Common Man website notes, “Each location is charged with holding community fundraisers, and employees are given paid time off to volunteer with non-profit organizations that are important to them. Over the four decades of being a hospitality leader in New Hampshire, the Common Man family has donated hundreds of hours of sweat equity and thousands of dollars in sponsorships, food and in-kind donations to local, national and international organizations working to make a difference.”

Although volunteerism and charity work are not requirements for working at the Common Man, it is strongly encouraged at each location, and according to spokesperson Erica Murphy, approximately 70% of the estimated 1,000 employees state-wide participate in charitable activities.

Ongoing fundraisers are also held in subtle ways, such as when a percentage of coffee sales at restaurants are donated to charitable organizations, or when a percentage of sales of Girl Scout cookie ice cream desserts are donated back to the Girl Scouts.  Similarly, last Christmas, coupon books featuring discounts to various restaurants and meals were available for sale, with proceeds benefitting the New Hampshire Food Bank.

The end result?  “We estimate that about $750,000 a year, in a combination of volunteer hours, in-kind food donations, gift card/prize donations, and financial contributions, are donated to the community,” says Erica.

And of course, this philosophy of “Doing Well by Doing Good,” starts at the top with founder Alex Ray, who exemplifies the spirit of giving. For example, on the local level in Ashland, Alex has shown unrelenting energy and generosity by hosting and helping to prepare and serve Ashland’s popular Fourth of July pancake breakfast and the Fourth of July chicken barbecue. In addition, the Ashland Common Man restaurant has been routinely made available (with food and wait-staff provided) for holiday fundraisers to benefit local community groups, including “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny” and “Breakfast with Santa” for the past several years. Also, in years past, the Ashland Common Man has worked with the Ashland “Food for All” program, preparing and hosting the annual Christmas Dinner, in which people looking for companionship and a nice holiday meal have been able to join with others and eat for free on Christmas Day.

On national and international levels, at times of disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, each restaurant has participated in fundraisers to raise money for relief efforts. Alex himself has made headlines in personally traveling to these locations to lend an active hand, whether by cooking or just helping out where needed. According to Erica, Alex is also currently working with a group in the Honduras to build a cooking school.

All of these volunteer and charitable efforts to benefit the greater community, according to the website, “…have been recognized on both a local and national level, (the Common Man) receiving for several years in a row the New Hampshire Restaurant Neighbor Award, and in 2010, The Cornerstone Humanitarian Award by the National Restaurant Association.”

Non-profit organizations looking for assistance in fundraising can contact the Common Man for consideration via a form on their website at For more information about the Common Man and its philanthropy, visit 

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