The Leonidas Foundation

Since the inception of DiningOut New Jersey, we have met a handful of restaurant owners who actively participate in charities, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and other forms of volunteer work. In this new section, Gastronomic and Philanthropic, DiningOut pays tribute to local restaurateurs who have a fervor for positively impacting the community around them.

Frances Vagias of Waterside Restaurant and Catering {7800 B River Road, North Bergen; 201.861.7767;,}
Frances Vagias is the owner of Waterside Restaurant and Catering, a company that offers an unforgettable experience that excites all the senses. Vagias is also heavily involved in community outreach. In fact, she launched the Leonidas Foundation in memory of her son, Leonidas Vagias, who passed away in a tragic car accident on June 20, 2016. The foundation is committed to promoting the welfare of young men by offering services that connect the mind, body, and spirit. While maintaining a strong love of God, country, and brotherhood, the foundation engages in productive and humanitarian endeavors to provide mentor-ship and public service with honor, prowess, and integrity. “So many people told my family about the impact Leo had on their lives, so we knew we had to carry on his legacy,” says Vagias. “We wanted to make sure that the kindness he showed toward others would forever live on.” The foundation’s mission is short yet poignant: to honor Leo’s life by doing good unto others.

Waterside Catering owners Dina Holevas, Frances Vagias, Gus Shizas

Owners Dina Holevas, Frances Vagias, Gus Shizas

The funds raised by the Leonidas Foundation go toward helping those in the community by promoting leadership and ethical entrepreneurship for young people. This past year, the foundation started the LEO business program at Leo’s alma mater, Don Bosco Preparatory High School. Current Don Bosco students are being taught business and leadership skills through the new program. The organization hopes to expand the LEO business program to reach other schools, especially those in underprivileged neighborhoods to provide students with mentorship and guidance. “I just want to keep my boy’s memory alive,” Vagias continues, “He always loved helping others.”

In addition to the Leonidas Foundation, Vagias also donates her time to the Sam Cali Foundation—a foundation that honors the life of Leo’s friend, Samuel Cali, who passed away in the same tragic car accident. Vagias is also involved with The Jordan Krakauer Memorial Scholarship Fund, an annual scholarship awarded to a college student who most exemplifies the qualities of Jordan, a young man from North Caldwell, New Jersey, who passed away in 2015.

Editor’s Note:  To see media from this year’s event visit The Leonidas Foundation on Facebook or Instagram @leonidasfoundation.

Interested in supporting the Leonidas Foundation? The Second Kickoff Cocktail Party will take place at Waterside Restaurant and Catering on April 19 at 6:30pm. “Last year we were so honored by the outpouring of love and support that we received from the community at our first event,” Vagias explains. “This year’s event will feature an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, food trucks, and much more. We have big plans to continue to honor Leo’s life, so we are relying on the continued support of all those who attended last year.”

By Heather Dean Bennington @hbennwithapen