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Hundreds dine for a good cause

August 23, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The 20th annual Taste of the Town & Benefit Auction was for a good cause, but it certainly didn't hurt ticket sales that there was a feast at every turn, and items up for bid that included baseball tickets and paintings.

Hospice of Washington County officials projected that the sold-out event would raise close to 20 percent of the money needed for the organization to operate for the year.

A crowd of about 650 jammed into the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center's Grand Ballroom. Tickets cost $40 each, or $350 for a table of 10. The ballroom was filled, and many people had full plates in hand within minutes after the doors opened at 5 p.m.

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Hospice Executive Director Susan Taylor said the final available tickets were sold days before the event. Taylor said that after 20 years, Taste of the Town basically sells itself.

"It's pretty much a well-known event," she said. "People look forward to this each year."

Hospice Community Liaison Dawn Johns said she believes the event has traditionally done well because "it's a way for people to give back" while having a good time and a great meal.

The draw of the event is in its name - the taste. Johns said it's the restaurants/food vendors - 18 participated for free this year - that make the event possible.

From restaurants such as the Fireside Restaurant to sandwich shops such as Subway to national theme restaurants including Outback Steakhouse, the guests were surrounded by the tasty options lined up around the walls of the ballroom.

"The food was excellent. We'll be back again next year," said Helen Troxell, who attended for the first time Sunday.

Troxell hailed not only the food, but the job that Hospice does in the area.

"It's really a good cause because they help so many people in and out of Washington County," she said.

The fund-raiser helps the nonprofit organization cover fees not met through insurance and costs for individuals without health insurance, most notably for grief and bereavement services.

Hospice Chief Financial Officer Michael Smith said the organization needs to raise about $180,000 annually to make up for funding shortfalls.

Doctors, nurses, home-health aides, social workers, volunteers, a bereavement counselor and other Hospice of Washington County workers provide health care to patients with terminal illnesses and support for their families. The nonprofit organization also provides medications and supplies needed to keep patients comfortable.

Ryan Schaeffer, a chef with Fireside Restaurant, said the event was the perfect opportunity to show people the restaurant's new menu.

Jason Elmore, assistant manager of Fountain Head County Club's catering business, said it was a way to get people thinking about using its staff for a banquet or wedding.

Steve Cook, co-owner of the Gourmet Goat, said the exposure for the business is great, but helping Hospice makes it worth coming out each year.

"They do a lot of good for this community," said Cook, who was providing his services for the second straight year. "We couldn't say no."

The silent and live auctions gave the diners plenty to do while digesting. Among the most sought-after items at this year's event were four tickets to the Oct. 3 Baltimore Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox and a gift certificate to Bodyworks Massage Center.

The live auction, held later in the evening, boasted items including tickets to a Broadway show in New York City with an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast, and several oil paintings.

Dr. Dona Hobart spent some time after dinner eyeing a Yamaha digital piano that was part of the live auction. Last year, Hobart took home an Oriental rug as a result of her persistent bidding, she said.

"I just had a great time last year and wanted to have more fun with more people this year," Hobart said.

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