In 2013, Todd Ross, owner of the Westlake Village-based mortgage brokerage, The Ross Group, started serving waffles to neighboring businesses and clients to “encourage a sense of community. At the time, he had no idea how popular the idea would become. ‘Our first event, we caused a power surge in our office as we connected five waffle makers into one power strip. It was a mess, but a lot of fun,” said Ross, a Thousand Oaks resident. “We saw how free food, coffee and a variety of people could create a couple hours of fun and socializing for everyone.”
Originally conceived as a mid-week pick-me-up, “Waffle Wednesday” evolved into an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for local charities. In November of 2015, Ross joined forces with five nearby small businesses in The Courtyard at Westlake for the Action Foundation. “Each donated $200 to help buy toys for a pop Christmas toy shoppe where toys were donated for local low income families,” said Ross. “We had waffles, fried chicken made on the spot, beer, wine, Santa Clause, a DJ, and lots of volunteers help us. This began the new way of doing Waffle Wednesday, having volunteers help in the preparation and serving as well as hosting one of the charities we love.”
On August 17, from 5-8 p.m., Waffle Wednesday will host its biggest event yet for Hoops of Hope, an organization created by a nine-year-old boy in 2004 to help orphans in Zambia. “Hoops of Hope is one of the four charities we love,” said Ross, who has three kids of his own. “Austin Gutwein … and I met when he was 14. I was intrigued how he started this organization … by raising money through shooting basketball hoops. He didn’t allow being a kid stop him from making a difference in someone else’s life. [The orphans] virtually no overhead which was another draw to make sure the money gets to those its intended to help.”
The Hoops of Hope event, which will take place in the parking lot of 3625 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd, in Thousand Oaks, is free to the public and will feature chicken waffle sliders (donated by Chick-file-A), a kid zone, a DJ and lots of basketball. Participants pay for the opportunity to shoot hoops.
The foundation is currently recruiting sponsored teams to participate. They are also seeking volunteers to help out. Anyone interested can write to [email protected]