Helping to make a difference in the lives of children in the Long Beach area
Real People. Real Food.
This is our mantra at True South, no made up slogans or stories– we focus on authenticity in everything we do from our recipes, loving food preparation, and the community we serve.
20 years ago, the Press-Telegram’s Send-a-Kid-to-Camp Fund was initiated by Tom Hennessy, the late Press-Telegram columnist, and Jean Bixby Smith, chair emeritus of the Long Beach Community Foundation.
Your dollars have sent hundreds of children to a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a mountain camp. You may donate online at the Long Beach Community Foundation website, longbeachcf.org. Click the “donate” button and look for the campaign logo. You also may mail your check, payable to the Long Beach Community Foundation, to P.O. Box 32622, Long Beach, CA, 90832. Remember that it costs about $410 on average to send one child to one week in a mountain summer camp. Thank you in advance for your donation!
Cheryl Carter makes dreams come true for Long Beach kids who long to go to summer camps
For the past two decades she has been making dreams come true for hundreds of other youngsters who are enjoying summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains thanks to financial aid from Carter and customers at her True South restaurants., via the Press-Telegram’s Send-a-Kid-to-Camp program.
When Cheryl Carter was a little girl, she loved going to summer camp in the San Gorgonio Mountains, laying under the stars and feeling cradled by a vast universe. “As I looked up, I always felt any dream was possible,” she told me last week at the Johnny Rebs True South restaurant she owns in Long Beach.
Many of Carter’s dreams have come true, and, for the past two decades she has been making dreams come true for hundreds of other youngsters who are enjoying summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains thanks to financial aid from Carter and customers at her True South restaurants.
Carter has been participating in the Press-Telegram’s Send-a-Kid-to-Camp program almost from the day it was started 20 years ago by Tom Hennessy, the late P-T columnist, and Jean Bixby Smith of the Long Beach Community Foundation.
This year’s camp campaign is in its final week as kids are preparing to go to camp, but it’s not too late to send in your donations either online, by mail or by eating at one of the True South restaurants in Long Beach and Bellflower. Donations sent in this week will help send more kids to camps this summer. We will accept donations later, but that money will be rolled over and used to send kids to camps in 2020.
The Press-Telegram and Community Foundation have partnered to raise money to send kids to summer camps in the San Bernardino Mountains operated by these youth agencies: Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, Camp Fire Angeles, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Since the camp program started, Carter and her True South customers have contributed more than $120,000 to send kids to camps. And that, as they say, ain’t peanuts. In fact, Carter uses peanuts to promote donations. She provides canisters filled with free peanuts on tables at her restaurants and, in return, asks customers to “Shell Out for Charity.”
These camp canisters will stay on tables for three months and be replaced by canisters for other charities throughout the year. Carter said her “Shell Out for Charity” program has raised more than $1 million for various charitable organizations. Kids to Camp is her longest running charity.
Carter was born in San Diego to Jim and Martha Lester. Her father was a welder and tractor mechanic. Her mother raised four girls and, later in life, ran a successful nonprofit in La Habra. “Serving my community was bred in me by my mother,” Carter told me as I nibbled on peanuts, throwing the shells on the floor. Great fun while contributing to a good cause.
After graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a business degree, Carter said an investor asked her to prepare a proposal for a Southern BBQ restaurant in Southern California. He said he would bankroll it if she would run it. “I worked as a waitress to pay my way through college, and it was not a job I wanted to return to, but I figured I could set up a restaurant and move on after three years or so. Here I am now 37 years later!” she said.
To develop a menu and recipes, Carter packed up her Volkswagen and headed South. “I worked in every BBQ restaurant I could find,” she said. “I gathered recipes, rolled biscuits. It was an amazing culinary journey. After four months I returned to California and Larry Carter, the investor who I ended up marrying, had found this crazy old beer bar in North Long Beach for our site. I personally painted the building, sanded every strip of pine and all the chairs, worked alongside the carpenter and built the first Johnny Rebs’ Long Beach. We opened October, 1984.”
Carter’s authentic menu includes favorites like baby ribs, catfish, hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, peach cobbler and pecan pie. And don’t forget the peanuts. Tragedy struck the restaurant when it was destroyed by a fire in 2007. “I’m heartbroken,” Carter said at the time. “I opened this restaurant when I was 24. It’s our life blood. I’m in shock. I just don’t know what to say.” But Carter and her staff rolled up their sleeves and went to work to build a new restaurant at the same location in North Long Beach.
While she was operating Johnny Rebs and doing other volunteer work, Carter came into contact with Tom Hennessy, who turned out to be a lifelong friend until he died three years ago. “Tom’s spirit for supporting community programs awakened mine,” she said. “The first campaign I worked on him was “Pennies for a Police Dog” to raise money for a police dog to replace one who had died. I want to continue Tom’s legacy. It keeps me raising money for our youth and a program he was passionate about.” Carter was pleased to hold up a T-shirt proclaiming “Tom’s Kids” on the front. We call all the kids in our program “Tom’s Kids” now in honor of Hennessy.
“Helping our kids connect with nature, developing new friends and community and simply having fun is one of the best ways to make a difference,” she said, adding that many of her customers were touched by Hennessy’s work. “We received many stories and appreciation for Tom,” she said. “We were touched by all. One of the most memorable was a single mom who had raised three children and wrote a check. It meant so much for her to write this check.” Hennessy must be smiling as “Tom’s Kids” start going to camp, thanks to people like Cheryl Carter, her customers and Press-Telegram readers like you.
Campaigns We’ve Completed This Year
Pathways Volunteer Hospice, a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing service to the frail, elderly, terminally ill and providing compassionate support to grieving families.