How to: Host a Dinner Party Fundraiser

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Recently, Melissa Hoeman Carlberg and her husband Zach hosted a dinner party fundraiser in their home to benefit the Literacy Center, which provides basic literacy education, General Educational Development (GED) prep and technology training to adults in the community, free of charge. “I think the most important first step in hosting a fundraiser like this is to ensure you are raising money for a cause you care deeply about and have a personal connection established,” Melissa says. She is on the board of directors for the organization and became involved after hearing about what it’s doing to prep hundreds of students each year for GED testing, the work force and even simple, taken-for-granted tasks like reading a menu or a storybook to their kids. Every spring, the Literacy Center hosts a formal campaign to create awareness and raise funds to cover operating costs. While a lot of that campaign is done over social media, Melissa and Zach decided to take a more personal approach to raising money.  “My husband and I both love to cook and entertain.  I thought it’d be fun to have a party, host our friends and raise money for a good cause. For us, it is fun to prepare menus and cook together,” she says. Menu planning took about two weeks and the couple spent two days preparing the dinner.

Sample of dinner party invitation
Sample of dinner party invitation

Melissa started with a large guest list. Her intention was to cast a wide net with the invitation to spread general awareness. “I knew that not everyone would be able to attend, but that some might still be willing to make an online donation,” she says.  She invited past and present co-workers, members of her book club, fellow Literacy Center board members as well as Junior League of Omaha members. The invitation was designed by a friend of hers that incorporated a book-related ABCs theme and suggested a “hardcover” donation of $20 or “softcover” donation of $10 to the Literacy Center. The invitation was sent electronically through Facebook and email.

Party decorations made from book pages
Party decorations made from book pages

“Zach and I wanted to play off the ABCs theme by offering appetizers, beverages and conversation at our event,” she says.  The couple’s signature cocktail for the event was named “Teacher’s Pet,” an Old Fashioned made with apple-flavored whiskey. Zach and his sister spent a great deal of time putting together decorations of custom flowers made from the pages of old books that the local library was planning to toss. The evening of the dinner party, roughly 60 guests poured in and out of their house. There was no formal programming that evening, rather a cocktail party like atmosphere where Melissa and Zach could pop around to guests and casually pepper the organization’s mission and plans for their upcoming building plans and move into conversation. “We sat a laptop by the front door so guests could make a donation as they came in or left,” Melissa says. “Most of our guests were willing to donate about $50, and I am guessing that figure came from what they would have spent on a night out for dinner and drinks, which we provided that night.”

Junior League of Omaha members attend fundraising dinner for the Literacy Center
Junior League of Omaha members attend fundraising dinner for the Literacy Center. Back row, left to right: Erin Fairchild, Alysia Radicia, Megan Riebe, Amy Henderson and Kelly Giese. Front row, left to right: Melissa Hoeman Carlberg (host), Lindsey Buchanan and Katie Triplett.

The donation results from the dinner party were quite impressive. Initially Melissa set her campaign goal at $750, then increased it to $1,000 for the party after receiving so many “hardcover” and “softcover” donations from those who could not attend. The evening ended with $1,300 donations made to the Literacy Center as a direct result of Melissa and Zach’s efforts. To put the total amount into perspective, $1,300 could pay for 10 students to take the GED test. Melissa and Zach will be hosting another dinner to benefit the organization next spring. “We were really thrilled with our friends’ generosity and were so pleased to have the money to go to the overall campaign.”

Tips for running in high heels

Picture running a race. In heels.

For the participants who sign up for the Junior League of Omaha’s 5th Annual High Heel Dash on May 7th, this is the reality.

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High Heel Dash is a fundraiser with event proceeds set to benefit the League’s community projects: The Career Development Series, Project Hope Pack, Done–in-a-Day, and A Book of My Own.

Women and Men are asked to run a 50-yard dash in heels that must be at least 2 inches high.  The race is open to anyone age 19 or older with those registered in the Boomers & Beyond category being allowed to run in flats.  Dashers can compete as an individual or in a four-person relay team.

Costumes are encouraged and prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories with top awards going to dash winners and creative costumes.  Want to attend with feet firmly in place? Community supporters can purchase a Diva/Dude Doesn’t Dash drink ticket for happy hour only.

The dash will be run at Turner Park, located in the heart of Midtown Crossing. Dashers will have the ability to run in a closed course.  For those who find running a challenge while wearing sneakers, this race can be particularly hazardous. Therefore the High Heel Dash Committee has put together several tips to offer before Thursday:

  1. Wedges offer more stability than stilettos.

  2. Non-slip stickers added to the bottom of shoes can increase traction.

  3. Safety over speed.

  4. Running in a heel can put more pressure on knees – a neoprene sleeve could help decrease pressure on the kneecaps.

  5. Utilize some type of ankle support – whether it’s a wrap or lace up support.

  6. Scan the course – watch for gravel and be aware of where your feet are hitting the ground as you run.

  7. Stretch – focus on your Achilles tendon and hamstrings.

  8. Heels must be at least 2 inches high but we recommend sticking with heels no higher than 2.5 inches.

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If you go:

Junior League of Omaha 5th Annual High Heel Dash will be held at Midtown Crossing on May 7.

Event registration begins at 5:30 PM with the first Dash starting at 6:15 PM.  Immediately following the Dash, an event happy hour will be held at Brix.

Pre-Register at Active.com.  A t-shirt will be given to the first 75 registrations. Day of registrations will also be available.

 

High Heel Dash is On The Move

Have you heard? The (fifth annual) High Heel Dash is on the move for 2015! The event will move locations, taking place at Midtown Crossing on May 7, 2015.

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The unique annual event allows runners (and FUNdraisers) to raise money for Junior League of Omaha’s community projects. Participants sport their favorite pair of high heels (2” or higher) and race approximately 50 meters in either a team relay dash, individual race for men or women, or a race for those over 50, who are allowed to wear flats. Runners are strongly encouraged to participate donning a costume as prizes will be awarded for originality!HHD 2014 -4

 

 

“The new dash venue will be a great  for Junior League,” said Shelly Ruwe, High Heel Dash chair. “Midtown Crossing provides a great location with visibility throughout the city and provides ample opportunity for the committee to seek underwriting and in-kind donations from the locally owned businesses in the area. We are really excited to be working with the staff of Midtown Crossing and feel the new location will be a great advantage to gaining more traction and notoriety in the community for the projects that Junior League of Omaha supports.”

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Stay alert for more information on the 2015 High Heel Dash! Tickets on sale now, as fun in heels is afoot!

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Barn Bash and Chili Cookoff

For many League Members, the Barn Bash has become a favorite fall tradition. Active member Lexie Frahm and her husband Shane graciously hosted the “friendraiser” at their home in Gretna for the second year.

One of the highlights of the event is a chili cook-off, which was done anonymously for the first time. In the end, Active member Alysia Radicia took home the coveted prize, the $150 pot created by cook-off entry fees and more importantly, bragging rights until next year’s event.

Attendees also enjoyed s’mores by the bonfire, a competitive game of bingo as well as a night of socialization and fun.

We asked Alysia to share her secrets; you can find that below!

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Personally, I love food. And I especially love food when it is paired with friends, bingo, and fall weather – so the Barn Bash is my jam. Last year I participated in the cook-off but made a chili that was far too spicy for the audience. The buffalo chicken chili is still one of my favorites but I knew if I was going to win this year I needed an option that would have greater appeal to the judges. Wanting a chili that is delicious but still interesting was a challenge. I was chatting with one of my coworkers and he shared this recipe with me. He and his family are Filipino and have loved this recipe for many years. With strict instructions he directed me to the Asian Market on 78th and Dodge to purchase the Longaniza Sausage. This is the make or break ingredient of the chili. To help any future cooks, here’s a plan of its exact location in Asian Market. I only include this because I initially picked up the wrong sausage and was wildly disappointed. I would hate for anyone else to do the same. Also, I’m a designer and can’t help myself sometimes. With all the being said, all other ingredients are easy to find and come together to create the 2014 Barn Bash Chili Cook-Off Winner. If there are any questions any aspiring cooks have please let me know – I would be more than happy to share all my mistakes with you to help you out in the future.

 

Homemade Chili Con Carne with Hot Pork Longaniza Sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small can pimiento, diced

1 package of Hot Pork Longaniza Sausage, sliced diagonally

1/2 pound ground beef

1 (14 -ounce) can cooked red beans

1 (14-ounce) can stewed diced tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 bay leaves

2 stalks cilantro, chopped (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

olive oil for drizzling (optional)

cilantro leaf for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a saucepot. Add cumin in the hot oil. Add onions, garlic, and diced pimiento; saute until tender for 5 minutes.
  1. Cook sausage with 3⁄4 cup water in separate pan over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Let sausage cool and slice, set aside.
  1. Add ground beef and stir together in sauce pot cook for 5 minutes.
  1. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, and cilantro. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
  1. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper; cook for another 5 minutes. Place sausage on top of chili. Drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with a cilantro leaf.

Serves around 6. Prep Time 45-60 minutes.