Emerald eggs. Green beers. Shamrock shakes. St. Patrick’s Day is synonymous with a handful of festive consumables, including the headliner of one local nonprofit’s upcoming dinner fundraiser.
On Sunday, March 12, Kiwanis of Santa Maria Valley Foundation will hold its annual Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner at the Elwin Mussell Community Center. The organization has hosted the event—which raises money for student scholarships and other programs supported by the group—every March for more than 15 years, said longtime board member Katherine Fischer.
“The date of the event shifts from year to year. Sometimes it’s on St. Patrick’s Day if that happens to fall on a weekend,” said Fischer, who first joined the Kiwanis club about 25 years ago. “But if it falls during the week, we’ll have the event on the Sunday before—that’s what we’ve usually done.
“This is an event where we’re able to—through a lot of volunteer work—sell tickets for the meals and make a profit that goes to our foundation,” Fischer added.
Fischer is the official chairperson for the Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner and oversees various aspects of the volunteer-led event, which she described as a big group effort. Over the years, Fischer has worked with other board members and additional volunteers to prepare the dinners and serve patrons.
“We arrive at 7 in the morning to get things set up because the corned beef needs a long, slow cook in order to come out really delicious—which it does,” said Fischer, who described the chairperson role as multi-faceted. “I kind of do what needs to be done—try and see that things are coordinating. We’ve been doing this long enough that people know what to expect and what needs to be done.
“You sweep up when you need to, or help wash the potatoes, or help fill the trays of food that are being picked up,” Fischer added. “You know? You just do what needs to be done.”
Fischer described the program’s dinner offering as “a very traditional corned beef meal” with tender, long-cooked corned beef, red potatoes, cabbage, and onions.
“Those vegetables all get cooked in the same spiced broth—so it just really all goes together,” Fischer said.
Each takeout dinner also comes with a fresh roll and horseradish.
The Kiwanis group’s Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner originated as a festive in-person experience, with to-go options available. But the event changed to a curbside pickup fundraiser during the pandemic. The foundation decided to hold off from switching back to the hybrid format, for now, Fischer said.
“All the meals are to-go, but I’m hoping we’re going to be able to go back to in-person next year. It used to be a sit-down dinner,” Fischer said. “We’ve had live music in the past and even a little bit of sing-along, but of course, because of COVID, that changed.”
During the March 12 event, customers will be able to pick up their takeout dinners between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The standard dinner, fit for one, is available for $20, while a family pack—described as feeding four to six people—is $75.
Like all of the Kiwanis club’s fundraiser events, the proceeds from the Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner will primarily support children’s programs.
“We are always looking for ways to raise funds for the foundation so we can do things in the community that we would like to be able to do. We focus on helping kids, through supporting things like science camps, or helping to buy equipment so that kids can participate in sports who wouldn’t be able to afford to otherwise,” Fischer said. “We have funded books for libraries in local schools, because you know, state funds are thin on such things very often.”
Fischer added that the nonprofit is extremely thankful for the patrons who have continued to support the fundraiser over the years—and who’ve helped spread the word —especially as it’s evolved into a takeout-only program.
“We have a large number of returning customers that purchase the meal year after year after year,” Fischer said, “and we are just so grateful that they enjoy it so much and continue to support us and tell their friends about it.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is wearing green. Send four-leaf clovers to [email protected].