Restaurant owners devise innovative way to support the animals

At Santa Fe Café and Bistro 17, restaurateurs Anna and Jim Buckingham use wishing well fountains to gather donations to support homeless animals.
By Amy Abern

For a mere quarter – or dime or nickel or penny – you cannot only buy yourself a wish but help Best Friends at the same time.

Restaurateurs' innovative fundraising tactic

Four years ago in Hilton Head, South Carolina, restaurateurs Anna and Jim Buckingham came up with the idea to turn two "wishing well" fountains in front of their Santa Fe Café into fundraising vessels for Best Friends.

"I love what you people do," Anna says. "And I wondered what we could do from so far away to make a difference. So we dedicated our fountain money to Best Friends."

About every six weeks, Jim cleared the fountain of change. Anna would clean the money because "it would get really yucky and moldy," lug it over to a coin-counting machine and write a check to Best Friends for the total, usually around $100 to $120.

The couple also put up a plaque by the fountain to let people know where their money went.

"A lot of people down here didn’t know about Best Friends, so when they read the plaque, they’d ask me about it," Anna says. "I’d tell them what an amazing place it is and I’d usually have a Best Friends magazine to show them as well. Everyone down here is an animal person so I always have an eager audience."

Promoting the mission of Best Friends

After 15 years, Anna and Jim sold the Santa Fe and opened up a new restaurant, the dog-friendly Bistro 17. Sadly, their new place didn’t come with a fountain, but Anna decided if people couldn’t make wishes for Best Friends, they could still learn about the sanctuary. She designed the Bistro 17 staff uniform T-shirts to include the Best Friends web address,

And the Best Friends fountain fundraiser lives on at the Santa Fe Café under the new owners, Marshall and Rachel Sampson and Sean and Lisa Crosby. "I was pretty sure they’d keep it going," Anna says. "They’re all big animal lovers, too."

Visiting Hilton Head? Be sure to stop by Bistro 17 with or without your dogs and raise a glass to Anna and Jim.

And don’t forget to head on over to the Santa Fe Café and drop a quarter into the fountain for Best Friends.

Photos courtesy of Anna and Jim Buckingham

Even if you don’t have a wishing fountain nearby, you can help homeless animals.

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