Local firefighters present $1000 check to help beloved restaurant that burned in a fire

A beloved restaurant in Auburn that burned in a strip mall fire last month received a generous gift from Valley Professional Firefighters on Tuesday. The union bought $1000 worth of gift cards at Athens Pizza and Pasta House.

"Just overwhelmed. I'm not used to receiving this kind of attention and humbled by the great city of Auburn," said Athens Pizza and Pasta House owner Bill Contoravdis.

The president of Valley Professional Firefighters, Ryan Freed, adds, "I feel really good that we're able to do that. We all came together and we're able to be there for them."

It was just one of many outpourings of support the Contoravdis family received from the community after a fire damaged the roof of their restaurant and four other businesses in December.

"GMC had a fundraiser for us, the fire authority is having a fundraiser for us, Randy at Auburn Valley Barber Shop had a fundraiser for us," said the owner's wife Nina Contoravdis.

The fire was a devastating setback for the restaurant already suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the hardships, the Contoravdis family has been giving back to the Auburn community for 40 years, including donating $1500 to the Valley Professional Firefighters Christmas toy drive just one day before the fire.

"Because of that donation this year, even during Covid, we were able to reach 750 families which is wonderful. We didn't even think that was possible," said Freed.

Union firefighters say they will raffle of the gift cards to raise more money to help community organizations like food banks and help Athens Pizza and Pasta house get back up and running so they can serve their community for another 40 plus years.

"The customers that are telling us their stories that they've been coming for so long, like honestly, that's motivating us to get back to work sooner. We want to get back to work," said Nina.

Investigators say an overloaded electrical circuit caused the fire and it was ruled accidental.

You can participate in the Valley Professional Firefighters raffle on their Instagram page at @IAFFLOCAL1352.