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A Wordly Excursion: Cape Fear Literacy Council hosts annual gala and fund-raiser

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“Around the World in 80 Days,” written by Jules Verne, is set in the Victorian era and tells a story of two men on a journey to make the impossible possible. On a bet, they travel the world in a short timeframe, by train and steamboat, on foot, by elephant, and in a hot air balloon, exploring and overcoming life’s vast obstacles along the way. Much like the protagonist’s determination to win his £20,000 gamble to see through his journey, the drive of the Cape Fear Literacy Council to continue promoting reading and literacy comes with its own set of trials and tribulations. Fund-raising is among them; yet, the payback to the community remains priceless.


“Over 40 percent of New Hanover County residents (over 61,000 people) do not have the reading, writing or comprehension skills to fully function on a daily basis,” Payne states.


The council serves around 550 students annually. In fact, the cost to help one student lies between $75 and $80.


“The National Assessment of Adult Literacy show [in the most recent data from 2003], quantitative literacy had improved a bit; otherwise, rates remained the same,” Yasmin Tomkinson, literacy program director, informs. “In terms of Cape Fear Literacy Council, we have increased the number of students we served 10 years ago. We served fewer than 400 adults then, and now we serve about 500 to 550. The need, however, is vast. Applying the best data available from the national survey, we estimate that almost 60,000 adults could use educational support.”


Their annual spring gala is the non-profit’s biggest fund-raiser of the year, and they strive to break $100,000 annually. Thus, they can continue their high order to educate adults and families of the Cape Fear region. While attendance is mostly great, they notice an upswing when choosing the correct theme for the event. For many years the non-profit hosted its own Mardi Gras party at the Coastline Convention Center during the weekend of the New Orleans bash. Although it was well-received, they decided five years ago to step it up with a black-tie gala; now, they change the theme annually. They’ve danced and reveled among the set of “Casablanca,” the backdrop of “The Great Gatsby,” and even enjoyed a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”


“The choice of popular books/movies is a fun way for our guests to celebrate the magic of books and learning,” Erin Payne, community outreach and volunteer management coordinator, tells. “Our gala committee chose ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ this year because it is a book that highlights the adventure of a lifetime. It is a book/movie that many of our supporters and students can connect with, and what is more fun than adventure, intrigue and elegance told through a story that spans the globe!”


The evening will feature cocktails and an international-inspired dinner. Starting off with London’s famed Ploughman’s salad, folks will enjoy tender bib lettuce, sweet cherry tomatoes, white cheddar cheese, apples and olive croutons with cider vinaigrette. Then, guests will be transported to India, Hong Kong and Japan, to nosh on a black-and-white sesame-seed boneless breast of chicken with citrus ginger sauce, basmati rice and a mélange of sweet peppers, snow pea-pods and carrots, along with Indian naan bread. Crossing the Pacific Ocean, they’ll finish it off with New York cheesecake, topped with a San Francisco black Mission fig sauce.


“This menu follows the route that main characters Phileas Fogg and Passepartout follow in the novel/movie,” Payne notes. Savor at the Wilmington Convention Center their in-house caterer will be providing the food.


Live music will be provided by 360 Degrees, a local band that plays ‘60s soul and R&B, as well as British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll. Casino games also will be offered: Black Jack, Roulette and Poker among them. Live and silent auctions will feature great grabs, including a Hilton Head oceanfront condo getaway, a week’s rental of a Harley-Davidson, a MarineMax fully catered day cruise, and a Bahamas vacation.


Payne tells, “We have sold out over the past several years (the Breakfast at Tiffany’s Gala in 2013 sold out in 10 days) and we expect the same for this year.”


The organization expects around 400 to 500 guests. Folks are asked to come in formal dress or suited for a whirlwind journey. “Around the World in 80 Days” takes place at the Wilmington Convention Center on March 1st at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $125. For more information, contact the Cape Fear Literacy Council by calling 910-251-0911.



Around the World in 80 Days

Fund-raising gala for the

Cape Fear Literacy Council

Saturday, March 1st, 6:30 p.m.

Wilmington Convention Center

515 Nutt Street

Tickets: $125 • 910-251-0911

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