Only on Bainbridge Island, where giving is contagious | Our Opinion | Dec. 16

The Review’s annual “only on Bainbridge Island” Christmas editorial centers on Greg Epstein, wife Carmen and their 4 1/2-year-old son, Jazz. They have owned and operated Bainbridge Island BBQ for nearly five years. They recently discovered Carmen has a very treatable form of breast cancer, thanks to it being identified early. Nevertheless, it’s still cancer and, well, it still represents the unknown.

The Epsteins have done well with their restaurant located 100 yards off Winslow Way West, but the combination of the construction project and the usual winter decline has caused a bit of a slump. They have health insurance; still, the cost of paying for treatment is prohibitive. So, since Greg knows more than just a little bit about the island on which he was raised, he decided to do what’s become natural for him – open up and reach out.

From noon to  7 p.m. this Friday, the Epsteins will throw their own benefit at the restaurant – all you can eat until the food runs out. A little odd, perhaps, holding a benefit for yourselves, but not on Bainbridge Island.

“We’ve worked hard for this community. We love what we do and care about the people we serve every day,” said Greg, who met his wife when they were working as chefs at upscale restaurants in Los Angeles. They wanted a family, “so it was back to the rock,” he said.

Having grown up here and having suffered his share of heartbreak, Greg knows we all need to pull together.

“In a sense, society is in trouble because people wait too long to get help,” he said. “They can be sitting on the bus right next to you all screwed up and won’t say a word about it to you or anyone. Too often we are all inside ourselves and afraid, but the truth is, the person sitting next to you could be in the same mess as you. Maybe you could actually help each other.”

So he has reached out by letting islanders know that he and his loved ones could use a hand up. They’ll provide the food and love, and all you have to do is give back.

“The response has been overwhelming,” he said. “We just feel blessed. We know that if we were living in L.A., we’d be going through this all by ourselves.”

It’s not the first time Greg has dealt with a loved one being struck by cancer.

His twin brother, Andrew, died at age 31 while in his third year of medical school.

“That was a hard one,” he said, “but this is different. The mood is different, lighter. And the outcome will be different, too.”

So, come on down and have some ribs. And give.

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