Non-profit

Food For Greater Elgin: Grand Victoria Casino

Another year of planning flew by and we closed out the fifth annual Food For Greater Elgin Pallet to Palate fundraising event, which came to life late this May. We came back again this year with the goal of increasing the revenue, increasing the participation AND making the event more meaningful and more fun.

This year, the event was held at Grand Victoria Casino, in their newly remodeled ballroom overlooking the Fox River. With over 265 guests, this year's event had more participants, and it also raised over $50,000, which was a $25% increase from the year before. The evening was centered around food and beverage tastings, but also included some games, a photo booth, prizes, a raffle, a silent auction and live jazz music. 

Founded in 2011,  FFGE is the largest client-choice food pantry in the Elgin area.  It strives to combat food insecurity in the most effective ways, and also addresses the fight against hunger holistically by coordinating weekly client-choice food distributions full of fresh, nutritious foods, offering a Community Resource Center designed to connect individuals to additional resources to help address underlying root causes contributing to food insecurity. and collaborating with other organizations and businesses. FFGE currently provides stability to nearly 6,000 individuals, of whom nearly half are children. What an honor to be invited to be a part of such amazing work!

The evening featured chefs and mixologists from the Elgin-area, each of which provided tastings of their favorite menu items. From Cajun to BBQ to Italian to Indian, there were scrumptious tidbits of all types to try! A bar stocked with wine and craft beer rounded out the menu for the evening. Vendors included: Cafe Roma, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Crumpet's Luncheonette, Chic Chef Catering, Delish Cakes, Dream Foods, Emmett's Brewing Co., Grand Victoria Casino, Lagunita's Brewing Co., Los Fernandez Restaurant, Martini Room and Rosie O'Hare's Public House. 

Photographs were captured by Gil Feliciano. Marketing and design was done by ColorWord Creative.

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Behind the Scenes at Culture Without Borders: The Ivy Room

We don't always get behind-the-scenes photos from events, but photographer Nancy Valladolid did a fantastic job of capturing the activity throughout the afternoon and evening leading up to our Culture Without Borders fundraising gala, which raised money for the Pan-African Association and which took place at The Ivy Room. Find out more about the event HERE.

With nearly 20 adult and children models, many of whom are refugees directly affected by the work of the organization, there was a lot that needed to happen the afternoon of the gala to get everyone fitted into the clothes they would be wearing and to have hair and make-up finalized. Four amazing hair stylists and make-up artists volunteered their time and talents to do incredible work! A huge thanks to Milian Bonillo, Kate Johnson Artistry, Tricia Davis and Kendyl Beauty for all they did to put together the looks. Fashion designers Joquette Boutique and Akese Stylelines showed off their unique pieces in the fashion show.

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Culture Without Borders Gala: The Ivy Room

Last week we executed Pan-African Association's annual Culture Without Borders gala at The Ivy Room. After months of planning, we couldn't wait to kick off the fun and informative affair... and raise money for a good cause!! The evening started off with a cocktail reception, silent auction and raffle. It led into a dinner and program and concluded with passed desserts, group photos and a fashion designer showcase.

We had many incredible folks and groups involved in the evening. Sarah Schulte, news reporter for ABC 7 News, was the emcee. Two refugees, Semere and Francine, shared their stories. Dance group Afrikan Heat from University of Illinois at Chicago and master drummer Prince Malonga with Beto Bantu performed for the evening. Fashion designers Joquette Boutique and Akese Stylelines showed off new pieces in a fashion show. And guess what... most of the models were actually refugees who had benefited from services like those provided by Pan-African Association. DJ Malik and DJ Teebot kept the energy high with their music.

We also had many great behind the scenes folks who made a big impact on the evening. There were four hair and makeup artists who donated their time and talents: Milian Bonillo, Kate Johnson Artistry, Tricia Davis and Kendyl Beauty did hair and makeup for the models. Escandar Group Events helped with some planning in the final weeks, and helped coordinate the many moving parts the night of the event!

All photographs below are by the talented photographer Nancy Valladolid. I LOVE the colors she captured. How beautiful and how full of life!

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2017 RefugeeOne Annual Gala & Late Night Party: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

As many of those close to me know, I have been a supporter of RefugeeOne for many years. This year I again served as a member of the gala planning committee. With the bulk of the planning starting about six months prior to the event, it was an honor to be involved in such an extraordinary evening to raise money for an incredible cause.

At this year's April event, we celebrated 35 years of refugee resettlement by RefugeeOne. After a year of welcoming a record number of courageous refugees during the worst refugee crisis of our lifetime, RefugeeOne was humbled and amazed by the unprecedented amount of community support. Due to the generosity of the event sponsors, the 750+ Gala and Late Night Party guests, silent auction and raffle donors, and dozens of event volunteers, the organization raised more than $373,000 at this year's benefit to support refugees building new lives in Chicago!

One of my favorite parts of the evening took place during the program. We had the opportunity to get to know the Mweniake & Mwenembuka family through a video featuring their story, and then they joined us to perform a song. Both videos are below, along with some other pictures from the fantastic evening!

Food For Greater Elgin Fundraising Event: The Haight

After six months of planning, Food For Greater Elgin's fourth annual Pallet to Palate fundraising event came to life late this May. This was the first year Dotted Events had an opportunity to work with the organization as the event planner. The event was held at The Haight, which was an amazing venue at which to host the event's 250 participants, a 25% increase in attendance from the previous year's event. We were thrilled that the organization was able to raise 68% more funds at this year's event to help make a difference in the community. 

Having grown up in Elgin and with a strong tie to the community, I had heard great things about the work of Food For Greater Elgin (FFGE) over the years. Founded in 2011,  FFGE is the largest client-choice food pantry in the Elgin area.  It strives to combat food insecurity in the most effective ways, and also addresses the fight against hunger holistically by coordinating weekly client-choice food distributions full of fresh, nutritious foods, offering a Community Resource Center designed to connect individuals to additional resources to help address underlying root causes contributing to food insecurity. and collaborating with other organizations and businesses. FFGE currently provides stability to nearly 6,000 individuals, of whom nearly half are children. What an honor to be invited to be a part of such amazing work!

The evening featured chefs and mixologists from the Elgin-area, each of which provided tastings of their favorite menu items. From BBQ to Italian to Indian to French, there were scrumptious tidbits of all types to try! A bar stocked with wine and craft beer rounded out the menu for the evening. Vendors included: Aliano's Ristorante, Blue Box Cafe, Cafe Roma, Crumpet's Luncheonette, Chic Chef Catering, Delish Cakes, Duke's Catering, Emmett's Brewing Co., Francesca's Campagna, Grand Victoria Casino, Lagunita's Brewing Co., Martini Room and Rosie O'Hare's Public House. 

A new addition to this year's event included a "passport", in which guests visited four interactive stations to learn about the work of FFGE in a fun way, and then were able to turn in the completed passport to have their names entered into a drawing to win prizes. The evening also included a short program, raffle and featured a live jazz band from Backthird Entertainment. Below are some pictures from the evening. The event was captured by James of James Harvey Photography.

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RefugeeOne Annual Conference

This fall, RefugeeOne hosted its second annual conference for businesses, schools and congregations interested in supporting the work of the organization. The event included plenary sessions, workshops and presentations, time for networking and treats from countries around the world. More than 175 people from 50+ faith communities gathered at the Gratz Center on Michigan Ave to learn more about getting involved.

This organization has been near and dear to my heart for many years because of the powerful work it does. RefugeeOne uses its resources very well (it runs a very lean budget with no waste!) to resettle hundreds of refugees from around the world who are fleeing war, persecution, violence or genocide. The organization provides a comprehensive and multi-faceted range of programs that empower newly-arrived refugees, such as relocating them to homes in the Chicagoland area, teaching English skills, and providing vocational training and counseling in a compassionate, non-threatening environment. All services are provided with a single goal in mind: to provide refugees with self-sufficient new lives within the United States. Interested in the work of the organization or want to find out more about how to provide friendship and/or financial support to a refugee family in Chicago? Click here.

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RefugeeOne Gala: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

I have been involved with RefugeeOne since 2012. This incredible organization creates opportunity for refugees fleeing war, terror and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity and self-reliance. 

Each April, the organization hosts a fundraising gala to raise both funds and awareness for the cause. As a planning committee member for the past several years, it's been fun to see the event grow in both size and profit. This year the event needed a larger venue than in years past. The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel was the perfect space - glamorous, spacious, with good food and good service.

Below are some photos from the affair, captured by Roark Johnson Photography. Dessert was donated by The Eli's Cheesecake Company

Creative Fundraising Event Spotlight: Mercy Home Ringside Gala

The event planning world relies heavily on networking. Most weddings and events I become involved in are due to some sort of relationship or connection. And that is exactly how I became involved in Mercy Home's Ringside Event.

I have a dear friend, Erin, who works for Mercy Home. As with most I've met who work for the organization, she is full of passion about her work and about Mercy Home's mission, which is to give abused, neglected and abandoned children in Chicago a safe Home and a bright future. About three or four years ago, she invited me to volunteer at one of the Home's annual fundraising events. Since then, I've volunteered at several Mercy Home events each year, as the organization has now won me over too... what a great cause!

My favorite event by Mercy Home just happened last week, and I couldn't help but write about it. Every year, Ringside attracts over 1,000 guests to the Chicago Marriott Grand Ballroom. While it has the traditional elements of many galas (live and silent auctions, a raffle, dinner and drinks, live music and dancing to the City Lights Orchestra), the focal point of the ballroom is a large boxing ring, built to host white collar boxing bouts.  Throughout the evening, 18 amateur boxers take to the ring to compete, while also raising critical funds for the boys and girls of Mercy Home. What a creative way to raise money and keep supporters engaged. Each and every time I volunteer at this event, I am inspired by the work of the organization, and challenged to keep thinking of ways to make the events with which I am involved as creative as this one!