Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 after learning his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, Southern Smoke has donated $763,000 to the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.

In 2017, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey and distributed $501,000 to 139 people in need. Recognizing a need, the Southern Smoke Foundation created an Emergency Relief Fund for people in the food and beverage industry in crisis. During the COVID-19 crisis—specifically between March 2020 and March 2021—Southern Smoke distributed more than $6 million to 2,744 individuals in the food and beverage industry nationwide. 

To date, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $9.3 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. As Chris says, Southern Smoke was created to “take care of our own.”

Southern Smoke Leadership Team
Dream Team
Catarina Bill
Director of Case Management and Community Partnerships
Cris Agustin
Derek Vigoa
Director of Advancement
Sarah Atwood
Director of Philanthropy
Nathalie Hamaker
Assistant Director of Case Management
Chris Wise
Operations Manager
Fernanda Varela
Communications Manager
Timothy Malcolm
Content Manager
Alison Robbins
Case Manager
Nicole Cruz
Case Manager
Helen Glasscock
Case Manager