How a Sandwich Builds a House

Habitat crew member digs into a plate of barbecue

Local Athens eateries help build their community … literally!

You can’t build a house without power. At Athens Area Habitat, we power our tools with electricity, and we power our crew and volunteers with excellent food catered by Athens area restaurants.

As part of the Great Chain of Life, which you might remember from your school days, a sandwich is prepared at a local restaurant, which is eaten by a crew member providing energy for swinging hammers and sawing wood and painting walls, which creates a home that a family can call their own for the first time. Through our Build an Appetite program, this cycle repeats itself throughout the year, transforming sandwiches, pita wraps, and plates of barbecue into energy, and energy into affordable housing.

The Build an Appetite program began in 2017 with three charter donors — Marti’s at Midday, Pulaski Heights BBQ, and Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe — each committing to regular donations of catering to Athens Area Habitat build sites. “It may seem like a detail,” says Athens Habitat outreach director Bridget Sivewright, “but being able to count on having food, especially excellent food, at the build site makes everything run more smoothly, and it makes the volunteers and crew happy which means a lot when you’re doing the hard work of building and renovating homes.”

Marti SchimmelLocated since 2002 in an old 1930’s era home at 1280 Prince Avenue, Marti’s at Midday was originally intended to be a catering business that serves the occasional lunch. But according to owner Marti Schimmel, in an interview with VoyageATL, “after 15 years I serve a lot more than ‘a sandwich every once in a while’ – I have a wonderful lunch business that attracts professionals, students, and locals. And I still love to cater and get to provide love from my kitchen to events all over Athens and North East Georgia almost on a daily basis.”

Athens native Marti Schimmel is no stranger to what we do here at Habitat. In fact, she used to be one of the very volunteers that her Athens business now feeds. “I attended Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, and volunteered with Habitat during my sophomore and junior years helping building houses. I love the work y’all do and am always happy to support such a great cause. My community is my business, and I am thankful to Athens for 15 great years!”

Taziki's kitchen crew

Just down Prince Avenue from Marti’s, in the Bottleworks building, is Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe. Although there are several Taziki’s locations across the Southeast, each restaurant is locally focused, in much the same way as each Habitat affiliate “belongs” to the area it serves. Founded by self-proclaimed “big-hearted foodies committed to making an impact in the community”, Taziki’s is  centered around “the feeling of family and friends around the table”.

Taziki’s has operated in Athens for about four years, during which time they have built a reputation for community involvement. “We have a mutually beneficial relationship with the Athens community”, says general manager Whit Richardson. “We make it a priority to give 5% of sales back to the community through donations and sponsorships.  Not only does this help us stay engaged in our community, but it also makes us focus on our P&L, making it feasible. And we believe in the efforts Habitat is pursuing to make a difference in local affordable housing initiatives.”

Taziki’s on Prince is also partnering with the Clarke County School District to implement a program for students with disabilities to help grow herbs for the restaurant. It’s that kind of local outreach that makes Taziki’s a perfect partner for our Build an Appetite program.

PHBBQ To Go BagsJust a quick hop, skip, and jump over to Pulaski Street leads us to our third Build an Appetite program charter partner, Pulaski Heights BBQ. Located in the historic 1920’s era Leathers building — that would be the same Leathers who invented the machine that makes Moon Pies — PHBBQ has been smoking their barbecue daily since 2012. In fact, when the wind is right, we can smell the hickory pit from our offices on Barber Street!

We love Pulaski Heights for their focus on quality (like making their amazing sides fresh from scratch), for their commitment to the community, and for their openness and innovation, like hosting a ramen night and serving up kimchi alongside squash casserole. (They even have a dog-friendly patio, just like we have a dog-friendly thrift store on Barber.)

When PHBBQ’s smokehouse went up in flames on Thanksgiving of 2016, we were devastated and helped get the word out that they were still serving and needed folks to come in so they wouldn’t go broke while recovering. Local response was strong, and we’re happy to say that Pulaski Heights is still around and better than ever. We think the barbecue-eating grin on Ben’s face in the photo at the top of this article pretty much says it all.

It’s been a year now since Build an Appetite got off the ground, and in that time our charter partners have made a lot of volunteers happy.  And in the process, they have literally fueled the work that goes into building and renovating homes for families who otherwise would have no home of their own.  Thanks again to Marti’s, Taziki’s, and Pulaski Heights — you make our workdays, and our lives, richer by your service.

If you’re a restaurant owner interested in participating in the Athens Area Habitat Build an Appetite program, you may contact our outreach director, Bridget Sivewright, at or by calling 706-208-1001, option 2, option 1.