As the winds get colder and the trees transition to their fall splendor, our thoughts often turn to fall celebrations. Families are off to the pumpkin patch to pick out a winner for the Pumpkinfest display, we break out our fuzzy blankets and cuddle up for movie nights and reading time. Thoughts turn to Thanksgiving planning, as menus are set and families get ready to travel to see loved ones, and eat their annual slice of pumpkin pie. (I like my whipped cream with a side of pie, but that’s just me.) In my career in nonprofit services, the chilly weather brings to me an alternative perspective, as well. It is one of gratitude for the warm home I return to each night after work; for the car I can start up without thinking much about it each day that takes me to the grocery store, to my son’s school and to the doctor’s office for needed appointments; and for the security of having my basic needs met each and every day. Because of my connection to service delivery in DeKalb County, I know that not everyone in our community welcomes fall and winter in this way. Utility bills are higher for those on tight budgets. People who live in food deserts have longer and colder walks to put healthy food on their family’s table. A doctor’s appointment may be a luxury for those who do not have convenient access to care.
Fall at Kishwaukee United Way means that we are knee deep in preparations for our annual TASTE: Bottles & Brews event. We are hard at work securing sponsorship, reaching out to local businesses who donate silent auction items, and selling tickets to what is our biggest special event of the season. TASTE is a lot of work. Anyone visiting my office in the final weeks prior to the event knows about the piles of auction items in boxes and bags awaiting the transformation to beautiful themed gift baskets. They have seen the stacks of 50/50 raffle tickets, and the signs, bid sheets and bid cards that are prepared so that we might display our donations, and make them bid-worthy. You’ll often see extra bodies crammed into our one-room office, cutting, punching and tying numbers on packages, running in and out with last-minutes auction finds, and shuttling items back and forth to our venue.
So…how does our TASTE event connect back to those who struggle in our community? Why is it important for us to roll up our sleeves and put all of our energy into this event each year? Because every gift – no matter how it is raised on November 8th – will have an impact on our community. One raffle ticket sold will help as we invest in mentoring for a child at risk. One auction basket purchase will help to house a homeless family working toward independence. One event sponsorship will help us make the waiting list for Meals on Wheels shorter, feeding seniors who would otherwise go without a meal and the human touch that is delivered along with the food.
Is TASTE a fabulous event – you bet it is! Friends and colleagues catch up with each other. You get to sample a new wine or micro-brew and add it to your holiday shopping list. Our silent auction will likely have you walking away with some goodies for your holiday shopping list or a treat for yourself. But TASTE is more than the camaraderie – more than the samplings and songs – it is an event that sustains our organization and our work for another year. It helps us invest in the most vulnerable individuals and families in our area, bringing them a bit of warmth, help and hope for the season.