WOONSOCKET — David Lahousse doesn’t give back so he can receive an award. His philanthropic efforts aren’t done in the name of plaudits or praise. The owner of Kay’s Restaurant in Woonsocket and The Lodge Pub & Eatery in Lincoln, Lahousse goes above and beyond for his communities because he wants to, because he loves the place he calls home.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of awards, but I don’t do this for awards. I do this because it’s the right thing to do, in business and from your heart,” Lahousse said on Saturday from a booth inside Kay’s Restaurant. “I don’t do it for the glory and the headlines, I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
However, while he’s not in it for the adulation, for all of his myriad efforts, Lahousse will be bestowed with the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce’s Ben G. Mondor Award during the chamber’s annual dinner next week.
The Ben G. Mondor Award was established in 2011 to honor the former owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox. The award is given to an individual who goes above and beyond philanthropically within the community. John C. Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, said the award winners exemplify “good corporate philanthropic efforts.”
Lahousse said his tireless efforts to give back to his community came from his family – particularly his father Lionel and his mother Adele.
“We didn’t come from a lot of money. My father worked for Almacs, my mom worked as a demonstrator for PartyLite, My family, we were eight kids – the first three worked for Almacs, one of my older brothers worked at Vermette’s Restaurant, a brother worked at the Shell gas station,” he recalled of his upbringing. “I said, what am I going to do? I didn’t want to work as a mechanic … My parents got involved with the Masons and Knights of Columbus and I always wanted to emulate them.”
“In your business life, when you’re younger and you’re starting out, you don’t have time to do a lot of things because you’re building a business…” he said. “As I got older, I tried to find times to do different things. I got involved with the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Bellingham Business Association. We helped raise money for defibrillators, airbags for EMS, dog food for the canines. That was my first taste of really getting involved.”
Gregory said that Lahousse “embodies the same spirit” as Ben Mondor. “He’s very active in his support of the Stadium Theatre, the Woonsocket Milk Fund, AutumnFest, the Ronald McDonald House. When the nomination came in – because we asked for nominees – we said ‘Oh yeah’ in essence.”
“I grew up in this business with the mindset that when business does well, business does good, and he’s certainly an embodiment of that,” Gregory continued. “We don’t take it lightly, it’s not like we just give it to so-and-so, he was the choice.”
On the Stadium Theatre, Lahousse called it “the bloodline of our city.”
“Growing up in this city as a kid, you could literally hear the mills running 24/7 and you were just used to it,” he said. “Today you don’t have those second- and third-shift people working in the mills. But you see the Stadium Theatre come along. We helped out in the beginning, we got involved, I’m proud to be involved in the Stadium because it brings thousands of people into our city every year. It helps business because people come to eat, but it’s not all about the business side of things, it’s about making sure that keeps going.”
“I hope that I can inspire people to just get involved in your community. If you don’t have the money or time, you can always join an organization that a lot of people are doing a lot of good,” he said.
As for winning an award named after the former PawSox owner, Lahousse said: “I’m honored, it’s people like him that we all need to look at.”
“He bought the team, he’s almost like the Bob Kraft, where he took it and made it into something special. He gave away a lot to a lot of people. There’s a lot of things we don’t know he gave because it was quietly given out,” Lahousse said. “I think Ben Mondor is a guy who people are going to look in the future, especially with the PawSox moving, and say this was a special guy in the right time in our state.”
Over the years, Mondor was feted with a long list of honors and accolades including the “Distinguished Service Star” presented by then-Gov. Lincoln Almond and the state of Rhode Island in 2002, along with the ALS Rhode Island Chapter “Spirit of Lou Gehrig” award presented in 2003.
In addition to owning the PawSox, Mondor was a member of several boards of directors and trustees and was involved in a large number of the top charitable organizations throughout the state. He created the Pawtucket Red Sox Charitable Foundation to help support charitable groups throughout New England. Mondor passed away in 2010.
Past Mondor Award recipients include Dan J. Sullivan, Jr. of Collette Vacations, Richard Beaupre of ChemArt, Bob Andrade of Pawtucket Credit Union, Thomas V. Ward of The Valley Breeze, Gary E. Furtado of Navigant Credit Union, Brian and Roberta Hunter of Hunter Insurance, John J. Palumbo of Rhode Island Monthly, and David Soucy of Soucy Insurance.
“I think it’s his personal value system,” Gregory said of how Lahousse fits in with those previous award winners. “That he feels that if you’re doing well, then you should be able to help others that maybe need the opportunity to get a leg up. The Milk Fund is a major charity in the greater Woonsocket area, AutumnFest, the Stadium Theatre … He’s a real, real big supporter because he sees the value to the community.”
Lahousse, who is married to his wife Donna and has four children – Erick, Chad, Jessica, and Kayla – and six grandchildren, said even after being recognized with the Mondor Award, he’s going to continue to do the most he can for his community.
“I love this city. I was born and raised here. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything, even though it wasn’t the easiest,” he said. “People ask why I live in Woonsocket, I say because I love it. This place was the boom of the northeast. I have faith that things will get better and are getting better.”
The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln. The keynote speaker at this year’s dinner will be Neil Steinberg, the president and chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Foundation.
Steinberg is likely to discuss the visions and goals of the Rhode Island Foundation’s education improvement-focused task force, which was launched to develop a shared, inclusive, long-term vision and a comprehensive and coordinated action plan of top priorities for education.
The Chamber will also honor this year’s recipient of the distinguished Barbara C. Burlingame Award. The award was established in 2003 to honor Burlingame, who represented Woonsocket and North Smithfield in the General Assembly and was vice president at the chamber for nine years until 2000, when she left to become the executive director of Sojourner House in Providence. Burlingame died in 2001.
The Barbara C. Burlingame Award was established by the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce to recognize a Rhode Island elected official who has made outstanding contributions to the business community. The award recognizes individuals who exhibit the highest standards of excellence, dedication, and accomplishment in the public service arena. This year’s recipient is North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi.
Tickets are $100 for Chamber members and $150 for non-members. Table sponsorships are available. For additional information and to register, call the Chamber at 401-334-1000 or visit www.nrichamber.com.
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