This Spring, former Pittsburgh Steeler and well-known philanthropist Chuck Sanders will open Savoy, a new upscale restaurant in the Strip District. In the time since plans for the restaurant were first set in motion, Sanders has kept busy organizing gospel concerts and managing his many charitable contributions through Chuck Sanders Charities, all while operating his company Urban Settlement Services LLC, which has found itself among the top 15 in the nation for Black enterprise.
|PILLAR OF SOCIETY—Chuck Sanders has become a staple of Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
“Success breeds success. This didn’t happen overnight. There’s a legacy that I’m trying to uphold. I’m very proud of the reputation my father had and I’m happy to carry it on myself,” Sanders said. “It’s very important to me to do things right.”
In a creative marketing strategy Sanders is organizing several concerts presented by Savoy including, CeCe Winans who came to the Benedum Center on March 6, and Charlie Wilson who will appear at the Monroeville Convention Center on May 8.
“I love music; I just love gospel concerts. It’s not a moneymaker,” Sanders said. “I want to make a statement that this is what we’re about; we’re about supporting praise and worship. It is a great way to advertise.”
Of his many contributions over the last year, perhaps the most significant was a $100,000 donation to the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime. The anti-violence program run by city government confronts gang members and threatens them with severe consequences if they refuse to stop their violent behavior.
“I had talked with Chief Nate Harper and (District 9 Councilman Rev. Ricky) Burgess about what the program was about. On the surface of course it was about stopping the murder rate, but once I looked into the program I saw that there was actually a mechanism in place. I really wanted to focus on the social service aspect of it once I saw there wasn’t any corporate money in place,” Sanders said. “Being realistic and understanding it takes time, I feel good about where we are. I am disappointed that more private businesses haven’t donated money to the program, but that’s not going to stop me from contributing.”
Sanders’ other philanthropic involvement includes contributions to the Workforce Development Global Alliance, NAACP, Hill House Association, Macedonia Baptist Church, the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise, and a scholarship fund for Slippery Rock University.
“One of the goals of Chuck Sanders Charities is not to reinvent the wheel. There’s a lot of good programs out here that just need help,” Sanders said. “I’m just a true believer in giving. It was how I was raised. It’s why you’re blessed. It’s always worked. It’s a great formula.”
Savoy Restaurant is predicted to serve as another feather in the cap of successful endeavors Sanders has been involved in over the past decade. The Urban Redevelopment Authority, who lent $310,000 to the project, recently described the $2.1 million dollar investment as a “first class restaurant with a five-star chef and a New York-style lounge.”
“When you think of the great moments of your life, a lot of them were probably sitting around the table with family and friends, enjoying a meal. It’s a place where everyone can go and be comfortable,” Sanders said. “It’s just a really pretty place. I say that humbly. I’ve been part of some really nice restaurants in other places. We’re going to be able to offer food and atmosphere that Pittsburgh has never seen.”
In the future, Sanders will return to his real estate roots with the development of condominiums and housings on land in the Strip District. He also plans to continue his work with Urban Settlement Services to help homeowners who are at-risk of losing their homes because of the current economic crisis.
“That crisis while it might be getting better, there are still people losing their homes at alarming rates,” Sanders said.