'Good Neighbor': Dugan's Pub Owner Wins Humanitarian Award
For years, Alan Riley has worked behind the scenes as a good citizen to help improve the lives of Moore County residents.
This week, Riley accepted another award for his work in the community a day after taking another step toward U.S. citizenship.
On Tuesday, Riley - who was born in England - was granted residency during an immigration hearing. A day later, he received the 2011 National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Neighbor Award, "humanitarian category," for restaurateurs who go above and beyond in giving back to their communities.
Riley, who owns Dugan's Pub in Pinehurst, can apply for citizenship in five years. He called his residency hearing the culmination of seven years of hard, expensive, yet gratifying work.
"It was an overwhelming rocess because I have lived here since I was 12 believing I was a citizen," he said.
When asked if he felt any differently after officially becoming a resident, Riley replied, "I don't have this knot in my back today because of all the stress."
Riley received the award Wednesday for his work with BackPack Pals, which provides food on the weekends for needy schoolchildren.
He said he got involved purely by accident.
"I think it was the first year after the program had been conceived," he said. "A couple of ladies were having lunch here, and I know them pretty well, and we were laughing back and forth, and they were acting all tired and I said, 'What have you two been doing, playing golf?' and they said, 'No, we have been at BackPack Pals,' and I said, 'What is that?'"
The ladies explained the program, and Riley immediately was on board to help, because food hadn't been plentiful at Riley's home growing up in England.
"If a program like that would have been in place to help my family, things might have been a little different," he said.
Linda Hubbard, the director of BackPack Pals, credits Riley for helping the program take off.
"It was just fate that these two volunteers came to lunch at Dugan's Pub," she said. "The program would never be at 850 kids, which is what it is if it hadn't been for Alan's efforts. Every week he is doing something. He's a wonderful Moore Countian and a great supporter of BackPack Pals."
"He is a great example of what a good neighbor is," said Paul Stone, president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. "He gets his employees involved. He get the community involved, and he does a lot for the community because its the right thing to do."
Stone presented the award to Riley in front of a small group of friends Wednesday at Dugan's Pub. This is the third year that Riley has won the award.
Riley is modest about his work for the community. He says he has never met any of the kids he helps with BackPack Pals, preferring to stay in the background.
"I am happier behind the scenes, raising the money," Riley said. "Plus there are a lot of other faces that make it possible. My staff does a lot to allow me to go out and do what I do."
He thanked all those who have helped all of his community-oriented fundraising events.
Riley's longtime friend, Joan Poole, has known him since he was 15 and lied about his age to get a job with a chain restaurant in Fayetteville. She said he has always been a mature person concerned about the well-being of his community and its residents.
"He is a great person and a great humanitarian," she said. "You are very lucky to have him. He is a very loyal, committed friend, especially to this community."
Riley said he hopes to have more time to devote to helping the community now that his lengthy ordeal to establish residency is behind him.
"I love having the restaurant, and I love people loving my food, but if all you do is take people's money, that is all you are known for," he said. "I don't want to be known for that. I want to be known for having good food and good service and for what we do in the community. That's what counts."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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