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Do-gooding as a hobby

Matthew Chastain’s love of hiking led to his first charity project through the restaurant where he works as front-of the-house manager. 

      Matthew Chastain is one of those rare people who can renew your faith in humanity five seconds into a conversation. He’s genuine, friendly, inspiring, and someone whose driving force in life is as selfless as you can get – to give back and to make a difference in the world. 

            He’s the epitome of good vibes.

            Chastain, who works as front-of-the-house manager at The Old Mulehouse restaurant, is using his place of employment as a platform for  all the do-gooding he wants to do. He’s already got a few successful projects underway, and has even bigger plans for the future. 

            “This is a place that gives me the opportunity to pursue my dreams of being able to help where ever I can,” he said. “They encourage me and it just blows my mind. I want to make an impact in our community, and I want people to know that I care and that we care. It’s hard to do that by myself, but they want to make an impact, too.”

            At the restaurant, located on Main Street in Jasper, he’s launched two programs that serve as team building experiences, but that also provide services to the community. Everything started when Chastain, an avid hiker, noticed trash on local trails and mentioned it to Old Mulehouse Program Manager Liz Allred. She supported the launch of a hiking club for employees who would take bags and pick up trash on the hikes. 

            “Pickens has some really beautiful trails, hidden gems, and we wanted to keep them nice,” he said. 

            One thing led to another and Chastain formed a partnership with Keep Pickens Beautiful to launch the “Mule Mile” club, where Old Mulehouse employees pick up roadsides in Pickens County. 

            “We talked to KPB to see if there was a way we could help the community, then we started this around four months ago,” he said. “We get together the second Tuesday of every month to pick up a mile of road. We’ve done Old Philadelphia like three times because it gets so bad.” 

            The bond employees create on their excursions are invaluable.  

            “It’s so beneficial,” he said. “You get to see people in a different way than you’re used to seeing every day. You get to know people on a more personal level. And, when you work together to make a difference there’s a shared pride you have with each other, and a fulfillment. There ends up being a different vibe to how everyone communicates.” 

            But Chastain, who is 25, is thinking bigger. He envisions a food program where the restaurant can donate food waste to people in need, of creating a network with businesses and non-profits, and other philanthropic ideas. 

            “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel we want to keep the wheel spinning,” he said. “We want to work together and invest in our community.” 

            Chastain credits the influence of two women in his life for his dedication to giving back – his mother and grandmother.  

            “We lived in federal housing in Auburn and my mother was basically the neighborhood mother,” he said. “If a kid needed something she always made sure they had it. She always said help when you can. I want to take my mom’s values and do even more.” 

            Chastain’s family has always had a big garden, and his grandmother’s charitable spirt would blossom there. 

            “If we had more food than we needed she would refuse to sell it to anyone,” he said. “We would give it to people in the community. They were both very impactful to me.”

            Chastain, who moved to Auburn for a period of time before moving back to Pickens, did other volunteer and charity work as a kid and teen, including giving dance lessons.

            “I just want to do more, and I’ve got a team that supports me in that and that wants to do as much,” he said. “I want to open that door to be able to help as much as possible.”  

A group of Old Mulehouse employees during a “Mule Mile” outing where they pick up trash on Pickens County roads.

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