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Sep 4 • Live Local, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments

Epicurean Evening crowns winner and runners up during 6th annual fundraiser

Chef Denise Gordon takes home the bronze at Epicurean Evening 2012.  Photo by Gwenyfar Rohler

Chef Denise Gordon takes home the bronze at Epicurean Evening 2012.
Photo by Gwenyfar Rohler

How do we measure our bequest to the beneficiaries of our future, our children? Wilmington’s Epicurean Evening is a food paradise fundraiser for Methodist Home for Children, a statewide nonprofit that serves many families in our area. It’s an interesting evening, as far as gala fundraisers go. Foodies really find it a delight with 35 restaurants competing for the coveted Copper Kettle Award. The event feeds around 450 guests.

Methodist Home for Children (MHC) is an organization that fills in a lot of the “cracks” in our community. Founded at the end of the 19th century by two Methodist ministers, in its current incarnation, MHC focuses on family preservation services, which try to help families stay together and reunite when possible. But don’t be misled by the name, people across the spectrum are helped by MHC. What began as Methodist Orphanage, the organization still places foster children and arranges adoptions across the state. Despite cuts in funding to mental health and social services, MHC has been picking up pieces and providing much-needed services to members of the community that would not otherwise receive help. Their FACT (Focused Active Continuous Treatment) program out of Jacksonville works with families of children with dual diagnosis of mental and/or developmental disorders, like autism and traumatic brain injury. That’s a lot to have on one family’s plate. In addition MHC helps its alumni with scholarships for higher education, because without skills or a degree, a person’s options are limited.

“It a good cause,” Mayor Saffo nodded at Epicurian Evening last Thursday. “With great food in our beautiful convention center—and you know what the good news is? They just told me that next year they need to move to the bigger space!” He pointed behind him toward the larger room.

The featured speaker for 2012 was Colleen Glackin—a living testimony to the importance of the work MHC  does with families. She began working with a counselor from MHC in October 2012.  At the time, “My husband and I were both recovering addicts, and we had lost custody of our two children,” Glackin recounted.  Her husband was in jail when she began working with her counselor twice a week.

“At that time I could barely even talk to people. So many people were mad at me…” Glackin trailed off before being able to recount her counselor as “the first person who believed in me and helped me find words to talk to the people who were upset.” Two years later the Glackins are reunited with each other and their children, with a third on the way.

So what motivates the restaurants to donate food to feed 450 people? Besides the exposure for the business, the answers were remarkably personal. Donna Lemery of Life’s Cake makes cupcakes for MHC and loves to bake for special-needs children but was emphatic. “I have an adopted child—that’s the biggest reason I’m here,” she said.

Alisa Harris, of the newly opened TheatreNOW, said there were a million reasons to bring her crew. “First and foremost, to promote a fantastic female chef who is new to the area,” she bubbled, as TheatreNOW’s Denise Gordon blushed from behind the ice sculpture. “Also, to say that dinner theatre has quality food, as well as quality entertainment,” Harris added.

Christi Ferretti, co-owner of Pine Valley Market, brought her head chef Smokey Masters to the event, something in which they have participated for the last four years. “We won the Copper Kettle the second year,” she said with a hint of longing in her voice. Masters grinned and nodded with an air of “it’s coming back.”

Ferretti pointed out that Epicurean Evening is a great event to showcase the food; it’s not all about platters of free stuff but really about fine, quality eats.  “Also the board members come in and visit the restaurants that support the event,” she pointed out. “They rotate through all year long.”

Now, that’s a nice touch.

As a small-business owner, a flash rose over me in regards to the multitude of people who come in the bookstore with their hand out for a contribution—some of them talking about their last purchase on Amazon in the same breath. So, kudos to the MHC board for supporting the people who support you—that’s part of the deal.  “Of course, as a foster parent, this is a cause that’s really close to my heart,” Ferretti sighed. “Really close.”

With any competition, the judging ways heavily on people’s minds. The Epicurean Evening’s celebrity judges were sequestered to sample and grade the food before the attendees were invited to partake. Bo Dean, local celebrity blogger and development director for the Cameron Art Museum, adored the experience. “It’s what Wilmington is all about!” he mused. “You can travel the world right here—just with the incredible restaurants we have!”

Not ready to give away any hints about the winners, he was tight-lipped about the process. But by the night’s end, everyone was celebrating the  Hilton Riverside for their coveted Copper Kettle win. Silver went to Pine Valley Market and bronze to TheatreNOW.

Last year the evening raised $70,000 for MHC. This year they hope to have exceeded that goal. The money should be well spent to invest in our community’s future. If we can’t invest in our children, what can we hope to achieve?

Folks who wish to donate to the Methodist Home for Children can do so at www.wilmingtonee.com.

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