Surprise visit begins Community Heroes Week

Braves players, personnel recognize Hidinger, The Giving Kitchen

June 19th, 2017
Jen Hidinger from The Giving Kitchen was recognized for her community efforts by the Braves on Monday. (Jaylon Thompson/

ATLANTA -- Jen Hidinger, one of the founders for The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit organization that helps restaurant workers in a crisis, was shocked to hear sounds of marching drums coming down the Atlanta Beltline near the Ponce City Market.

She also was surprised to see Braves personnel and players, including Freddie Freeman, , and , who were in attendance to celebrate the beginning of Braves Community Heroes Week. Each day, the team will celebrate a local hero making a difference in the community.

"I literally had no idea it was happening," Hidinger said. "Our communications director, Brad Kaplan, was like, 'You are just going to stay back here behind the lines.' I was getting a little jittery, and it's hard to surprise me."

The Braves helped give out hot dogs to residents passing along the Beltline, and they provided The Giving Kitchen with a $5,000 check and Hidinger tickets to Monday's game.

"We heard about their story two weeks ago, and it's just a special experience to see their faces when we come out here," Freeman said. "It is an incredible feeling to help someone out who has been doing such great work in the community."

Hidinger has carried the legacy of the non-profit after her husband Ryan died of cancer. She and her staff dedicate several hours helping provide financial assistance to those who need it.

They have raised more than $1 million and given out nearly 700 grants. Also, all profits from Staplehouse restaurant, a subsidiary of The Giving House, go directly to The Giving Kitchen.

"It's super-moving and very powerful, and I am honored to shed light on The Giving Kitchen this way," Hidinger said. "It is very impactful and meaningful to me personally, professionally and emotionally. It is amazing."

Freeman led Braves personnel in taking photos and interacting with customers along the Beltline. He said Hidinger's story resonated with him and knew he had to help.

"Hearing her story and knowing her husband passed away kind of resonated with my family and me losing my mother," Freeman said. "When someone loses someone close to them, I wanted to come out and help as much as I can."

Hidinger's story, along with The Giving Kitchen, were recognized Monday night at SunTrust Park.

"I am blown away, and this was a complete surprise," Hidinger said. "For me, it's all about making sure The Giving Kitchen is a household name in our community."