Thursday, March 24, 2011
4th. Annual "Feast or Famine" Hunger Banquet
On Fat Tuesday this year (March 8th.) my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend the Longbranch Improvement Club's 4th. annual "Feast or Famine" Hunger Banquet, benefiting Key Peninsula Community Services Food Bank. Of course the theme was Mardi Gras, with purple, gold and green colour scheme throughout the Hall, styled by my dear friend, Trish Goodvin. As we entered we were each given an envelope, with instructions not to open them until given a signal at the appropriate time. There was a long head table in front of the stage, with lovely decorations and real tableware, real tablecloths. Smaller round tables filled the rest of the room, with pieces of newspaper as place mats, paper plates and plastic forks. This reflects the picture of global hunger, twenty percent with more than they need, eighty percent left wanting.
To understand roots of the event, I spoke to Carolyn Wiley, finding out it was she who first brought this idea to the Club. Didn't surprise me in the least. Carolyn is a properly transplanted Texan twister of energy and good works, who always leaves us younger yahoos gasping for breath in her dust. This, of course, means...she was a teacher before retirement! Back in the '70's, Carolyn took one of her classes to an Oxfam Hunger Banquet at the University of Washington. She was really impressed with a fundraiser that could educate people about world hunger and food distribution. Four years ago she brought the idea to Vicki Husted Biggs (another tireless advocate and powerhouse of organization, dedicated to our community) and "Feast or Famine" Longbranch-style was born. 2011's committee was made up of Carolyn Wiley, Arlyce Kretschman, and Penny Gazabat.
When all were assembled, Carolyn rang a bell and we opened our envelopes. Ooh-la...I won a seat at the head table! Oh, the bling of beaded necklaces and service waiting at our elbows, our every need seen to! The menu for us was to be salad, then a thick Flinstones-size slab of prime rib with baked potato and asparagus. Eighty percent of guests who didn't find their invitation so fortuitous were given a plate of rice and beans. Truthfully, this sized plate would be for a whole family in many countries. They let their resentment be known, which sparked both thought and discussion. By the time a protester brought his sign in front of us, and my hunka-hunka bleeding meat arrived, I gladly traded my plate with someone for rice and beans. Yes, a bleeding heart Liberal, I felt happy and humble, knowing I'd received so much love and soul-nourishment around my Amah's shared bowl of rice, growing up.
Keynote Speaker of the night was Stan Flemming, District 7, Pierce County Council member. Carolyn was impressed that this resident of University Place makes a concerted effort to come to the Key Peninsula, and surprised at his knowledge of the outer reaches of his district. Stan Flemming has been involved with many global humanitarian relief operations including Haiti, after the January 12th., 2010 7.0 earthquake, and was very qualified to speak to us about Haiti, Washington, and our own Key Pen.
There were simple stats like population, eighteen-thousand on this peninsula, six million in Washington State, and 9.9 million in Haiti. There were stats that stunned about Haiti's crisis...230,000 killed, and 1.3 million left homeless. Then there were some sobering, so-close-they're-home truths. He had our attention. There are 21,826 homeless students in Washington. Here in Pierce County 13.5 percent of residents have a median annual income of $25,000. On Key Peninsula, 13.5 percent receive community support. It was chilling to hear that our neighbourhood has a 5.3 percent infant-mortality rate...higher than the entire country of Vietnam. Seventy-four percent of our students receive free or reduced-fare lunches. We have many homeless and needy families that Key Peninsula Community Services help.
There was a full table of desserts to bid on, thanks to Oliver Coldeen and the Inn at Gig Harbor, wines from Bird Dog Wines, Stephanie Mann, muffin mixes from Longbranch Churches' "Ruth Circle." Gary Anderson of Lakebay Pottery and Matthew Hulse of Mountain thrown Pottery donated gorgeous pieces for silent auction. Elaine Quigley recruited Gail Kelly, from "Empty Bowls" and there were pottery bowls, plates and cups donated for sale. Dale and Claudia Loy of Sunnycrest Nursery in Key Center gave seed packets out to all, encouraging people to think of growing just a wee bit more veggies to donate to food banks this summer. I was so happy to buy a cup and bowl made by Elaine, another wonderful neighbour and fellow mermaid in our water aerobics class at Camp Easter Seals in Vaughn. Every time I use them, I'm reminded of Stan Flemming's talk and a night when members of my community came together to work the corner of our world that touches us, and learn more about the rest. The great news is that well over $2,000 was raised for our food bank!
Now, my Grandfather Grey Wolf would always thank the food he was about to eat, knowing it would nourish him. He also taught that it was very important to thank the cook, so we thank the cooks who made the evening possible: Norma Iverson, Peg Bingham, Wally Johnson, and Sharon Gearhart. To all, thank you.
Update: Sorry to end on a bit of a down note...but...on the Monday following our Mardi Gras "Feast or Famine" fundraiser...the food bank's van was stolen. If anyone happens to have an old van to donate, please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org and I thank you for your consideration.