St. Augustine, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2016) – Betty Griffin House, an agency that provides emergency shelter and support services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in St. Johns County, is among several local nonprofit groups that will receive donations through the 19th Annual Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest program that takes place during the entire month of September.

Through the program, The Columbia donates 5 percent of all guests’ September lunch and dinner checks to the charitable organizations chosen by their customers.

“This is a great program and we’re happy to be taking part in the Community Harvest Program again this year,” said Betty Griffin House Executive Director Joyce Mahr.

“We encourage all of our supporters and partners to make one or several visits to The Columbia in September and remember us after they enjoy a fabulous lunch or dinner there. It’s also a fun way to raise much-needed funding for our programs and to increase awareness of Betty Griffin House and the services we provide.”

In addition to The Columbia in St. Augustine, the Community Harvest takes place in all restaurant locations in September including Ybor City in the historic district of Tampa, St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida’s Town of Celebration, the Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk in Downtown
Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport.

“We started this program in 1998 as a way to help many of the worthy non-profit groups that are so important to our communities,” said fourth-generation family member and president Richard Gonzmart. “We thought the best way to do this was by letting our customers get involved in selecting the organizations. The process is simple.

Customers just put a check mark next to one of the charitable organizations listed on a form we provide and turn it in to their server. We do the rest, and donate 5 percent to the charity.”

All Columbia locations are open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Over the past 18 years, the Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest has donated more than $1.8 million to non-profit organizations throughout Florida. For more information, see

About Columbia Restaurant
The original Columbia Restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. and is now Florida’s oldest restaurant. Additional Columbia locations include St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida’s town of Celebration, the Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk in Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport. All Columbia locations are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family except for Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport, which is operated in partnership with HMSHost.  Please see for more information.

About Betty Griffin Center
The Betty Griffin Center was founded in 1990 by concerned citizens and incorporated as the Safety Shelter of St. Johns County to develop plans to provide shelter for local victims of domestic violence and their children. In 1992, the nonprofit agency contracted with a local motel for space and started a 24-hour crisis line and court advocacy program. By 1994, the agency purchased and opened Betty Griffin House as a permanent shelter. The shelter was expanded in 1998 to meet local demand, and a sexual assault program was added the same year. The Sexual Assault Victim Recovery Program is currently recruiting on call volunteers to provide victim advocacy. For information contact Kelly at 904-808-8544.

Today, Betty Griffin Center shelters 250 to 350 victims of domestic and sexual abuse annually, operates a 24-hour helpline, provides professional counseling for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, provides age appropriate violence prevention training and operates two thrift stores at Julington Square and Anastasia Square to assist in funding the agency’s ongoing operations
For more information or to make a donation, visit To report if you or someone you know is being abused, call the Betty Griffin Center 24-hour crisis helpline at (904) 824-1555.


Media Contact:
Ron Whittington
(904) 563-0402