When Christine Lampp arrived at Chili’s Grill and Bar on Wednesday night, she said she thought it had been robbed.
She and her father stopped in after shopping at Butler Plaza, and they found police cars in the parking lot and five Gainesville Police officers milling around the restaurant.
“Then one walked up to our table, and we really got scared,” Lampp said, “but he just asked what I wanted to drink.”
From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the officers teamed up with the Chili’s staff at 3530 SW Archer Road to help the restaurant raise money for pediatric cancer research and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The chain’s corporate office donated $350,000 at the beginning of September and asked its individual restaurants to help match the donation, said Eric Santiago, the restaurant’s general manager.
The officers bustled around the restaurant in aprons, carrying drinks and writing orders on miniature notepads. All five officers volunteered to participate, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.
“It’s the first time in a while that we’ve been able to do an event like this for the community,” he said. “Any time we get any request to help out with a cause like this, we jump on it because it’s near and dear to all our hearts.”
Lampp said when she and her father, David, realized what was going on, they were glad they stopped in for Southwestern Eggrolls.
“It’s surprising,” she said. “I live in Orlando, and I don’t know if the officers there would have been as open and willing to do this.”
Santiago said the Archer location needs to raise about $800 to reach its goal of $5,000.
“Management decided to reach out to GPD to make this a community effort as well as the effort of the Chili’s team,” Santiago said. “They’ve all done a great job so far, no one has spilled anything.”