Eat, Drink, and Contribute to Great Causes
By Bonnie Williamson
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is an organization that helps abused children in Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties; it is dependent on donations to survive. If you want to help worthy causes like this one and also sample some of the best foods the Eastern Panhandle has to offer, come to the Taste of the Panhandle event on January 19, 2013, at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Tickets sell for $65, the early bird special. After December 15, they will sell for $75.
This is the fourth year for Taste of the Panhandle, sponsored by the Martinsburg Rotary Club. Herman Dixon, chairman of the event, says CASA is the major focus of this year's Taste of the Panhandle. "We want to give back to the community," he says. "Ninety percent of what we get from Taste of the Panhandle goes to the organizations we support.
CASA helps children in need. Donations will also be given to other organizations, such as Potters Bowl, the Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, the Berkeley County Senior Center, the March of Dimes, the Rescue Mission, and the Community Network."
"It really is a minimal expense for us, and it can do so much," says Jodie Frankenberry, vice chair of the event. Taste of the Panhandle made about $25,000 last year. Donations were given to help Panhandle Home Health, a nonprofit agency that provides in-home care for individuals recovering from a short-term illness, surgery, or disability, and Young Lives, a faith-based organization that mentors teenage girls who are pregnant or who are already mothers. Jodie says this year's focus is on CASA, "because it is such a great organization. CASA helps find placement for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse." Herman adds that "the abuse of children happens more than one would think."
Vicki Barnard, executive director of CASA in Martinsburg, says she is so grateful for being recognized by Taste of the Panhandle. "We are happy and honored. Donations from this event will give us some breathing room. Help us keep going. Besides grants, donations are our main funding.
CASA currently is helping 97 children. The organization has about 35 volunteers. We have a very committed staff. The court petitions us and then we assign volunteers. There is a waiting list. We concentrate on the most critical cases, such as children who have been sexually assaulted."
Taste of the Panhandle will have at least 14 restaurants showing off their wares. This year's theme is "Winter Wonderland." Attendees can experience a wide variety of food and drink. Local restaurants bring in their specialties. There will be a variety of wines and beer, steak, smoked salmon, Mexican food, veggies, chocolate, and all kinds of desserts. There will be something for everyone.
Last year's participants included the Purple Iris at Heartwood, Bistro 112, the James Rumsey Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program, and the Blue Ridge CTC Culinary Academy. Beverages came from the Vandalia Brewery, while chocolates were on hand from DeFluris. German Street Coffee and Candlery brought their coffees. "We had about 200 people attend last year," Herman says. "The Taste of the Panhandle has become one of the top events in the area.
It is very well attended." The event also has a silent and live auction with such prizes as vacations, golf equipment, free advice from financial consultants, paintings, and other merchandise. Music will also be part of the event, either live music or recordings.
Tiffany Harshbarger, who owns The Purple Iris at Hartwood, along with her husband Daniel, the chef, has participated with Taste of the Panhandle since it began.
Last year, The Purple Iris offered dishes like lobster/crab bisque soup and Yukon Gold potato pancakes. "It was great watching people walking around sampling all the food," Tiffany says. "We brought the food right to the event and didn't use the kitchen. We had our own hot box under the table. The Purple Iris doesn't advertise very much, so the Taste of the Panhandle really helps people know what the restaurant has to offer." Tiffany also believes the event is held during a great time of year. "January. It's a slow time of the year. It gives people something to do instead of having cabin fever."
The Taste of the Panhandle is also referred to as Kelley Kisner's Taste of the Panhandle. Kisner and Barbara Bradley, another Martinsburg Rotary Club member, had the idea for the event during a conversation. "They wanted to see the needs of the community met. Kisner's drive, determination, and insight really are behind Taste of the Panhandle. She was helping get this event going even when she was fighting cancer. She has since passed away but she is not forgotten," Herman says. Vicki notes that Kelley Kisner, the event's founder, frequently ate at the Purple Iris.
Herman says the people involved with Taste of the Panhandle are "exceptional. They are some of the hardest working people around. I'm impressed with how they pull it all together. "
The Martinsburg Rotary Club is one of the oldest in America, Herman says. "We are devoted to the community and community service," he adds. The theme of Rotary Club International is Service Above Self.
The Martinsburg Rotary Club was founded on April 18, 1921. Twentytwo local businessmen helped form the club. According to their website, the object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster the opportunity for service, as well as encouraging and fostering high ethical standards in business and professions. Service is a big part of a Rotarian's personal, business, and community life.
So rid yourself of the January doldrums, have some delicious food, and help some great organizations, all at the same time. There's nothing like getting a Taste of the Panhandle. For more information, contact Kathy Mason at 304-267-4144; Jay Rutkowski at 304-262-9355; Jodie Frankenberry at 304-264-8011; or Herman Dixon at 304-263-4802 or 304-389-2187.