An Epicurean Evening
A culinary, charity fundraiser event that is helping local children in need of care
By BRIDGET CALLAHAN
Photos by JEFF SUMRELL
In our community, there are many organizations working around the clock to provide social services to people who desperately need it. But unfortunately, they’re usually so busy actually doing the work, they don’t have a lot of time to go out and tell others about it. They labor tirelessly, and without the fame they deserve.
The Methodist Home for Children is one of those organizations. An umbrella of social programs, they have been providing much needed community and family support for over 115 years, throughout southeast North Carolina, from Calabash to Jacksonville.
“We serve any child or family in need, regardless of their socio-economic or religious background, as long as they qualify with the Dept. of Social Services,” Regina Hawse, event coordinator for MHFC, says. “We serve them through foster care, adoption, family preservation, drug services, and even higher education. Any child that has been in our care, and qualifies to go to college, we take care of that, we see that they go. If families foster with us, and the child is available for adoption, then we make sure there are no adoption fees for them. So there’s lots of interesting services.
This September, the Methodist Home for Children will be holding their annual Epicurean Evening at the Wilmington Convention Center. This is their tenth anniversary of the event, which is a food and culinary competition and tasting, paired with live and silent auctions. All the participating “epicureans”, local restaurants, breweries, and dessert vendors, donate their time and work to compete, and participation is by invitation only.
Last year’s winner, Brent Poteat from 22 North Restaurant on Wrightsville Beach, has participated the last nine years out of ten. Last year was the first year he actually won, but his simple sweet corn and shrimp bisque with a jalapeno biscuit was the hit of the competition, winning four categories: Best in Show, Best in Taste, Best Appetizer, and the coveted People’s Choice vote. Despite this being a charity event, it is still a culinary competition, and one the chefs take seriously.
“Our philosophy here is we’ve been really fortunate,” Poteat says. “We’re a busy restaurant, people seem to really like coming here, they like our staff, they like coming to Wrightsville Beach, and as a result of that, it’s incumbent upon us to give back. If we’re gonna be this blessed, then we need to put back in, and so my favorite part is that we’re able to go down there, with very little effort on our part, for just a few hours, and we’re able to hopefully make an impact on someone else’s life.”
And, Hawse is adamant, that it does make an impact.
“For every thousand dollars we raise,” she says, “that benefits one child’s care for one year. Only a thousand dollars. There’s a funding gap between what the county and the state will reimburse us to care for a child, but it’s not up to our standards of care, so it actually costs us more, which is where the thousand comes in. When I heard that originally, I thought, wow, if everyone knew it only takes one thousand dollars to care for one more child every year, more people would do that.”
In response, they came up with the 1k for 1 Kid program, which helps any organization or individual, from churches to schools, to organize fundraising around that theme. All proceeds from the Epicurean event go to the 1k for 1 Kid program. Last year’s event raised over 150,000 dollars, which meant 150 local children were able to get the care they deserve.
“The food, the auction items, they’re all donated,” Hawse says, “and that goes directly back to the kids. You think, over the nine years that Brent has participated, how many hundreds of children have benefited from that.”
Some of those auction items get pretty awesome. Besides a plethora of gift certificates and locally donated treasures, there’s several trip packages, from the Smoky Mountains to Coco Beach paddleboarding, and a Best of Travel Raffle where the winner can pick any of five packages, ranging from Vegas to Tuscany, with all airfare and expenses covered. The silent auction also includes gift packages and baskets put together by local churches and businesses.
The Epicurean Evening will be held Thursday, Sept. 8th, at the Wilmington Convention Center. Tickets start at $125 a person, and it will sell out, so don’t be the last person trying to hunt down a ticket to what is surely one of the biggest and brightest charity events of the Wilmington season.