Though lots more has fallen since, the snow that fell on Saturday, Jan. 30 did not keep away the 200-plus hardy individuals who came to work, party, and raise funds for a good Rappahannock cause: the Rappahannock Benevolent Fund, and its Celebrity Waiters’ Dinner at The Link in Sperryville.
The Benevolent Fund, which helps meet the emergency needs of county residents that cannot be met by government programs, was established in late 2008 under the prodding of John Kiser. The Celebrity Waiters’ Dinner — a project conceived, planned, and managed by an ad hoc support group of six community volunteers — raised about $26,000. Most of that will be matched by an anonymous donor.
Dinner was served by the “celebrities.” In addition to serving food to their tables, the waiters provided additional décor, drinks, appetizers and entertainment for their tables, or for the whole room: Sharon Luke brought a bucket of margaritas to sell to her table and other tables; Donald Chandler serenaded not only his table but also all the rest of the tables, requesting payment to sing (or not to sing); Ray Boc took photos of all and sold prints to anyone who wanted one; Bubby Settle raffled an auto detailing.
Bill Gadino played the accordion and sang Italian songs; Brett Boyce had a drawing for dinner at the Thornton River Grille and auctioned off a lovely cake baked by his wife, Cindy; John Kiser bought a creamed spinach dish prepared for him by a member of the committee (because he likes creamed spinach), and then sold individual servings to other guests.
There were table themes: cowboys; the scales of law; elegant candelabras and special decorations like balloon hats. All of the waiters used great imagination to raise a great deal of the money at the event. The top fund-raising tables were: Sharon Luke and Diane Bruce; Denise and Don Chandler; and Debbie Donehey. Additional entertainment was provided by the Reverends Jenks Hobson and Phil Bailey, Karole Bailey, Judy Reidinger and Nancy Merrill, Kelsa Settle and Dave Van de Vere. Van de Vere made Lucille Miller a star performer and brought down the house when he concluded by juggling a running chainsaw, a machete and an egg.
Work on the dinner began months ago when members of the support group began soliciting sponsors — the “celebrity” waiters and volunteers — and making all the necessary arrangements. A few weeks ago, they began cooking the dinner’s main course of sirloin tips in mushroom and onion gravy, first filling their homes with the smell of good food and then filling their freezers.
The celebrity waiters were: Alex and Ashleigh Sharp; Doug Baumgardner and Mike Brown; Sharon Luke and Diane Bruce; Bubby and Kendra Settle; Debbie Donehey; Pat Wharton; Bill Gadino; Ernesto Flores; John and Pam Kiser; Denise and Donald Chandler; Beth Gyorgy; Michael and Tim Bagley; Jim Swindler; Cole Johnson and Kathy Grove; Ray Boc and Barbara Adolfi; Butch Zindel and Terri Lehman; Jan Makela and John Lesinski; Jerry Martin and Peter Luke; Sallie Morgan and Mike Mahoney; Trish Bartholomew; and Brett and Cynthia Boyce.
The support group members are Alice Anderson, Beverly Atkins, Delma Bagley, Georgia Gilpin, Sharon Pyne and myself.
Twenty-one sponsors paid for the food and other basic expenses. They included: Real Estate III; Piedmont Sotheby; Rappahannock Real Estate Resources; Wingate Appraisal; Capitol Metro Physical Therapy; ReMax-Brett Boyce; the Artisanal Kitchen; Greve Foundation; Jessamine Hill Farm; Rappahannock National Bank; Stoneledge Productions; Settle’s Cars and Trucks; GEI; Country Places Realty; Thornton River Grill; Roy Wheeler Realty; Gadino Cellars; Alex & Ashleigh Sharp; Burgers n’ Things; Copper Fox Distillery Enterprises; and Baldwin’s.
On Friday afternoon before the dinner, Eve Willis with the help of Trish Bartholomew, Joan Herrema, Fawn Evenson, Ashleigh Sharp, Stu Willis, Carolyn Thornton and Carl Aplin transformed the space into a breath of spring. Greens had been collected throughout the county by other volunteers. Jeanne Drevas’ trees were used as a central theme. At around 6 p.m. Friday, the committee and many volunteers assembled to start setting tables and pulling the dinner together. The weather forecast for Saturday was for light snow.
Saturday morning it appeared that the snowfall was going to be heavier than originally predicted but might end by late afternoon. It was too late to postpone the dinner without sustaining heavy losses, so it had to go on.
Saturday afternoon found the committee and many volunteers in the kitchen: Sharon and Roger Dodson, Frances and Jimmy Dodson, Linda Baldwin, Christine and Bobbie Timbers, Diana Corbin, Holly Meade and Todd Atkins, Ronald Dodson, Roger Atkins, Kelly Settle, Brenden McEvoy, Hazel Zinn-Day, Cindy Robinson, Tam Settle, George Jenkins, Mario Martinez and Donna Kevis. Cookware and food were donated or loaned by Meredith Gorfein, Food Lion of Front Royal, Martin’s of Front Royal and Rae’s Place. Anita Embar of Artisanal Kitchen, with the help of Kelly Guido and Sally Fetter, made and baked bread for all the tables. Work at The Link started about 1 in the afternoon and continued through the evening — as did the snow.
It was a great evening, perhaps made even greater by the sacrifice caused by the continuing snow. The Benevolent Fund is a cause worth some sacrifice. For any who were unable to make it to the event but would like to contribute, a check made payable to the Rappahannock Benevolent Fund can be sent c/o Trinity Church, P.O. Box 299, Washington, VA 22747. All contributions are tax deductible and money given to the Benevolent Fund is matched on a dollar for dollar basis and will be used to help the needy of Rappahannock County.
There are no administrative costs associated with the fund. Last year about 200 grants totaling approximately $60,000 were given to needy Rappahannock citizens. Most grants were less than $400 and grantees received only one grant. Grants were given to buy food, medicines, pay heating bills, make emergency home repairs or for other necessities. Payments were usually made directly to vendors (e.g., the utility company). Referrals were made by the county’s churches and service agencies, including fire, rescue and police.