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Carrabba’s: A Team Player in the Mission To Save Lives

Alondra Montelongo
September 20, 2021

When it comes down to giving back to the community, Carrabba’s is on the frontlines ready to help. As a long-time partner, Carrabba’s hosts several blood drives across our service area – saving thousands of lives each year. Carrabba’s team members have even personally rolled up their sleeves to give back to a person in need. One of those team members is Jason. 

He is a Managing Partner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill and was the one who started the partnership with OneBlood. Jason recently shared with us an impactful story about his blood donation journey. 

Tell us about yourself and your role at Carrabba’s

I am 44 years old, married to an incredible woman, friend, and mother named Stacey, and a father to two amazing children, Maddie (11) and Alex (8). I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI and then attended college and settled in the Boston area for nearly two decades. In 2013 after a winter that seemed to never end, my family decided to make the move to sunny Florida. We now call the Sarasota area home.

Carrabba’s Managing Partner Grilling at a Big Red Bus Carrabba’s Blood Drive

How has the OneBlood and Carrabba’s partnership benefitted the community?

There are few things I take as much pride in professionally as our relationship with Oneblood and the St. Pete community. The St Pete community is a vocal one that offers so much: An artistic feel, an environmental spirit, a sense of others before self, and more. It is this sense of community that began our relationship with Oneblood many years ago and has since blossomed into a monthly event that has attracted broad attention at a national level and passionate support at the neighborhood level.  

What is your favorite thing about working within the Carrabba’s/Bloomin organization?

This is a company of restaurants that knows its priority: People. We try to live by a set of principles and beliefs that put giving front and center in every way. The sense of familial bond that comes from an organization so fiercely focused on taking care of its people is one that cannot be faked. Carrabba’s began with the story of two real people and the family history that inspired them. We have grown into a family whose rich culture celebrates the diverse histories and incredible futures of thousands.

What personal experience have you had with donating blood?

I have never been afraid of needles, though I have also never been one to intentionally seek them out. In 2013, I began my career with Carrabba’s and my time here in Florida. I had never donated blood and had no plans to.

In 2015, my Oneblood rep at the time, Angela West, and I decided to really market our drives. Angela brought the busses and we brought the grill. We set up our mobile grill in the parking lot and fed every donor on the first Thursday of every month. It was a great and rewarding experience to watch the steady trickle of donors each month.

Then I remembered something my father taught me when I was young. He told me to never ask someone to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. He meant it in a professional setting but I felt responsible to our donors to show support. So, with a slightly elevated pulse and very clammy hands, I got on the bus. After my first donation, I experienced what giving truly feels like, and it felt great.

Blood Drive Day became my favorite day of the month. Record crowds and packed buses became a regular thing and the busses always made room for me when I was eligible. Oddly enough, the sense of disappointment was just as great if my iron wasn’t where it needed to be so I changed my diet to make sure nothing got in the way of me giving every other month. Now it is a part of me. I cannot imagine not donating.  

My wonderful mother-in-law passed from glioblastoma in 2017. She left us with quite a bit of things to be thankful for, but she added one gift to the bunch that I try to carry with me every day: You never know. I realized I was donating for people like her and that, someday, maybe somebody would be donating for people like me. I miss my mother-in-law, Judy, dearly. When I sit on the bus now I do it for her. She gave me an incredible wife. Paying it forward is the least I can do.

What message would you share with others about the importance of blood donations?

Donating blood is hospitality. It is giving for the sake of giving rather than gaining. It is being of service to others before they need it. There is nothing like it. Donating blood is the single best insurance on the planet and, bonus, it’s free. Understanding the feeling of knowing you saved a life is one a select few get to experience. Donating blood is the way for all of us to understand it.

Carrabba’s Managing Partner taking a selfie in front a Carrabba’s sign at a blood drive event

Fun Question: Describe your perfect Carrabba’s full-course meal!

Where do I start?  I’m not a guy to eat alone, so my wife and I would start with our incredible Calamari.

The delicious tender baby squid are served alongside our scratch-made marinara sauce and our one-of-a-kind spicy Ricardo sauce making for a festive start to date night, but we’re not in a decisive mood tonight so we’re splitting the Classics Combination appetizer: A little bit of those tender calamari, some beautifully fried mozzarella marinara and a decadent serving of sausage-stuffed mushrooms.  

For dinner we like to share our plates so for her it’ll be the Italian Classics, a generous plate of golden-brown chicken parm, a stunning five-layer lasagna, and a fresh-pasta fettuccine alfredo.

Looking for something a little heartier, I’m having the Johnny Trio tonight. A smorgasbord including a tender 7oz sirloin topped with a sweet Lombardo marsala and mushroom sauce; a wood-grilled Chicken Bryan topped with creamy goat cheese, silky lemon butter, sundried tomatoes, and fresh basil; and a heaping side of our Mezzaluna Ravioli, a fresh pasta ravioli stuffed with Italian cheeses, chicken and spinach, hand sautéed in our creamy Sugo Rosa sauce.

Between the two of us, we’re sampling nine of our favorite plates! Dessert has to be the Chocolate Sogno, two layers of scratch-made fudge brownie, two layers of house-made whipped cream, two layers of rich chocolate mousse all built between two layers of house-made chocolate sauce.

We’re washing it down with an after-dinner espresso. Eating here never gets old!

Donating blood is a life-changing experience for both the donor and recipient. Roll up your sleeve and make a difference today. Click here to find a OneBlood location near you.

Alondra Montelongo, Digital Marketing Analyst and Author

Alondra Montelongo

As a Digital Marketing Specialist at OneBlood, Alondra Montelongo is responsible for staying on top of the latest #socialtrends in the digital sphere and crafting messaging that inspires others to save lives.

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