Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 after learning his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, Southern Smoke has donated $763,000 to the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.
In 2017, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey and distributed $501,000 to 139 people in need. Recognizing a need, the Southern Smoke Foundation created an Emergency Relief Fund for people in the food and beverage industry in crisis. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund has distributed $1,664,561 to 935 people.
To date, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $3.2 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. As Chris says, Southern Smoke was created to “take care of our own.”