Local Chefs and Restauranteurs Make a Difference for Camden Non Profit

“What they provide for us is measurable in terms of dollars, but immeasurable in what it means to our organization, “said Jodina Hicks, Executive Director of UrbanPromise.  “Our Annual Banquet is an incredible affair, truly elegant because of this donation, and a perfect way for us to say thank you to our volunteers and donors.”

Almost 20 years ago, chef Mark Smith was approached by a young organization in Camden called UrbanPromise.  The group was looking for a caterer, and Mark – who today owns two popular restaurants in South Jersey – was new to the local food scene.  He and his wife Lydia Cipriani had just started a catering business.

“When [UrbanPromise founder] Bruce Main explained the mission, I wanted to do the catering for a lot less,” Smith said.  “It’s pretty obvious when you talk to the children and staff at UrbanPromise that there’s a direct correlation between the quality of the people you’re meeting and the work they’re doing. Sometimes you write someone a check and you don’t really see the impact, but with UrbanPromise, you can really see the difference they’re making for these kids.”

The Tortilla Press partners with Georgetti’s Pasta and Sauce Market every year to cater UrbanPromise’s annual banquet, which draws 700 to 1,000 guests.  Both Mark and Georgetti’s owner, Michael Georgetti, work the event themselves, donating their time and preparing the dishes alongside their staff.

The food is one of the highlights of the event, and year after year, guests look forward to the appetizers and salads provided by The Tortilla Press and the entrees provided by Georgetti’s – especially the now-famous garlic mashed potatoes. The food is so good, Smith admitted with a laugh, that he saves a little plate for himself.

All three purveyors have a long history of supporting UrbanPromise by providing food and catering for various fund raising events and working directly with the children of Urban Promise.  Each year, UrbanPromise staff and youth do all the serving at the Annual Banquet, working in conjunction with the professionals in the kitchen.


People often think the odds are overwhelming in Camden,” Georgetti said.  “But at what point do you put a value on giving someone a better future?  Even helping one person can be infectious and spread in a good way to others.”

The volunteers and staff at UrbanPromise steer youth toward positive life choices, such as graduating from high school, going to college, and developing skills for the future. Georgetti likes being a part of the process.

“I get as much out of UrbanPromise, if not more, than the little bit I do for them,” he said. “I get hope, and I learn from these children.  The things I’ve heard from them and seen them do are amazing.  It’s satisfying and rewarding.”

About UrbanPromise

UrbanPromise is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children and youth with the supports they need to succeed academically, grow spiritually, and prepare for leadership that will bring positive change to their communities. This is accomplished through after-school programs, summer camps, job training, two schools, experiential learning, and a host of other enrichment activities. To learn more, please visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org.


Shannon Oberg 
Creative Director, UrbanPromise

Tel: 609.876.9958
E: shannonoberg@gmail.com