Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Enjoy a unique meal and benefit your neighbors at Empty Bowls and Dinner in the Dark
BY WENDY THIES SELL
Two Santa Barbara County fundraisers this October give the dining public the opportunity to fill more than their tummies—they’ll also help replenish the coffers of a local service club and a nonprofit organization.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Vandenberg Village Lions Club hosts a first-of-its-kind event in the area, Dinner in the Dark.
That evening, diners will be blindfolded in an effort to let them briefly step outside of their comfort zone to experience what it’s like to be blind.
“It’s a fun event and it’s an education,” said Arleen Lewis, Lions Club member and Dinner in the Dark chairwoman. “It’s kind of personal for me: I have a sister who is blind, and I have cataracts and diabetes.”
Dinner in the Dark’s menu will be simple: boneless chicken breast, potato dish, cooked vegetable, salad, bread, and dessert.
The message is more profound.
“The focus is bringing awareness and challenging those in attendance to open themselves up to a world that most find terribly frightening,” wrote event organizer Ann McCarty in an e-mail to the Sun.
“For those of us who are not visually impaired … the thought of plunging into total darkness is crippling,” she wrote. “Our aim is not to make this a scary event, but [rather] one that opens people’s minds, hearts, (and wallets) to support the work that Lions International does; to help us meet the mission, to help us provide for individuals in the Lompoc Valley who need help.”
All proceeds from Dinner in the Dark will benefit the Lions Club’s White Cane Fund, raising money for people in the community who can’t afford glasses or visiting the doctor for eye exams.
For more than 100 years, Lions Clubs International members have worked to improve sight and prevent blindness worldwide. Helen Keller challenged the service club in 1925 to be the “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness,” and the Lions have been dedicated to the cause ever since.
Dinner in the Dark tickets cost $25 each. Call Arleen Lewis at 705-2405.
Get a bowl, give meals
On Wednesday, Oct. 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hundreds of people are expected at the Santa Maria Fairpark for the 12th annual Empty Bowls luncheon, which raises money for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
Each person who donates $25 will get to choose a locally made, one-of-a-kind bowl and fill it with a delicious, hot soup lunch.
More than a dozen local restaurants and caterers are participating this year, providing a wide variety of soups for diners to choose from, including clam chowder, butternut squash, chicken noodle, tomato basil, and more.
This year’s restaurants include Vintner’s Grill at the Radisson of Santa Maria, The Garden Room at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, Santa Maria Country Club, Splash Café, Zoe’s Hawaiian Barbecue, Far Western Tavern, Jack’s Restaurant, Testa Catering, Shaw’s Steakhouse, Marian Regional Medical Center, and VTC.
Community leaders and restaurant representatives will be dishing out the soup. Panera and Albertson’s donate bread for the event, and Crystal Springs gives water. The Allan Hancock College ceramics program and other potters in the community donate hundreds of bowls for the luncheon.
“Every bowl is unique,” Foodbank Development Manager Judith Monte said. “If there are any hobby potters that would be willing to donate some of their bowls, I’d love to hear from them!”
Monte’s phone number is 937-3422, Ext. 106.
Empty Bowls is expecting more than 700 guests, myself included. (This is one of my favorite fundraising events of the year, partly because of the beautiful pottery we get to take home every year!)
This year, Sunny Country will provide entertainment for people waiting in line, Hancock instructor Bob Nichols will demonstrate ceramic bowl throwing, and there will be a silent auction and raffle.
In 2012, the Foodbank distributed more than 8.5 million meals from its two warehouse locations in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. Forty-four percent of those served are children.
Last year, Empty Bowls raised approximately $30,000 for the Foodbank.
Monte said that for every dollar raised, the Foodbank will be able to provide eight meals.“We have food donations that come in from national food manufacturers, but we have to pay the shipping on it. So money that’s raised at Empty Bowls will help to provide the funding that we need to move those big donations, and we are purchasing quite a bit of food as well,” she said.
It’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance on the website, foodbanksbc.org, or at other outlets such as Farm Supply, Community Bank of Santa Maria, and the Santa Maria Country Club. Tickets are also available at the door at the Fairpark on Oct. 23 until they run out.
Sun food and wine columnist Wendy Thies Sell welcomes story suggestions. Contact her at email@example.com.