Tatyana Melnik, AVP Branch Manager of Eastern Bank (one of the evening's sponsors) in Brookline

Tatyana Melnik, AVP Branch Manager of Eastern Bank (one of the evening’s sponsors) in Brookline

Demand at the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry is greater now than it has ever been, but the dire need did not fall on deaf ears.  The second annual Feed Brookline Drive recently culminated in a fundraising dinner at The Fireplace.  Those in attendance were a varied cross-section of the town.  Members of the business community mixed with residents, drive volunteers from BHS’ Food Justice and Brookline Literacy Partnership groups, community leaders, educators, Pantry volunteers and the Pantry’s manager, Jim Margolis.  The crowd attending was so large, in fact, it filled the restaurant.

When asked to share his thoughts on hosting the Benefit dinner, The Fireplace’s owner, Chef Jim Solomon stated,  “For the past ten years I have seen an increasingly dire food need for numerous Brookline residents. Given the state of the economy and desperate situation of many of our neighbors, The Fireplace was so happy to work with the community to help raise money for the Brookline Food Pantry. I am elated that the event was such a huge success, and I look forward to next year!

Sponsorships provided by Eastern Bank and the Foundation to Be Named Later, as well as private individual donations enabled drive and Pantry volunteers to join those who paid $125 per plate to benefit the pantry and enjoy the menu created for the evening by Chef Solomon.

The evening began with guests mingling while enjoying drinks and a selection of appetizers that included mushroom, rosemary & caramelized onion tart, roasted vegetable with arugula pesto and fried chicken bites with Massachusetts blue cheese.  Servers moved through the crowd selling raffle tickets – the prize a ‘Day In Brookline’ gift bag loaded with gift cards donated by the Bank of Canton,The Studio DCFA, Clear Flour Bread, Muddy River Gallery, Fire Opal, Zaftigs, Inner Strength Martial Arts, Courtyard by Marriott, Pear Tree, Brookline Booksmith, Mint Julep, Cause to Paws, PriKIDZ, Tiny Hanger, Abeille, Paris Creperie, Healthworks, GymIt and Magic Beans.

Brookline Emergency Food Pantry Manager, Jim Margolis

Brookline Emergency Food Pantry Manager, Jim Margolis

As diners moved to their seats to enjoy the pear & pomegranite salad, Brookline Hub Publisher, Harvey Bravman welcomed all and acknowledged the local small businesses, banks and volunteers that contributed to the Drive’s success.  This year’s Drive raised over $7,000 and 76 bags of food as a result of merchants hosting collection containers, as well as the donations and/or matching contributions made by local banks.  Bravman also acknowledged volunteers from Brookline Literacy Partnership and Food Justice groups who distributed containers & posters, collected donations and ran a raffle at BHS. Noting that the Pantry’s volunteers, such as Mary and Maureen who attended the dinner and manager Jeff Margolis played the biggest role fighting hunger, Bravman pledged that the Drive’s efforts would continue –  the community as a whole will do whatever is needed to provide financial security so that those working at the Pantry can focus entirely on feeding those in need.  Bravman announced the impending creation of a FeedBrookline.org website, donated by Advanced Digital Websites, to enable the Pantry to receive online donations year-round and inform the community of upcoming fundraisers events, such as Brookline Rotary’s Chocolate Extravaganza on Feb 12.

Before dinner was served, Jim Margolis described the Pantry’s current financial realities; a marked increase in the number visiting to receive food and an increase in the money needed to cover the difference between expenses and donations received.  He praised the dedication of those volunteering at the Pantry each week, and their willingness to always go the extra mile to help.

While diners enjoyed braised beef short-ribs, pepper-crusted salmon or fresh pasta, Kathy Mahoney was announced as the raffle winner.  The final tally showed an additional $670 over the dinner’s profits was raised by the raffle.  After a dessert of pear cranberry crisp and homemade cookies, dinners mingled and enjoyed each other’s company awhile longer before departing.

Matheus DePaula-Santos from Eureka!, one of the Drive’s fundraising powerhouses, echoed the thoughts of many as he summed up the experience, “This holiday season was the second year that Eureka Puzzles took part in raising money for the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry.  What was most surprising to us was not the public’s motivation for prizes, but the simple fact that they had the chance to help out their fellow Brookline residents. The dinner reunited many of the business that participated in the drive, and it was there that I saw how varied a group we were; everyone from large banks to independent clothing stores all seated at the same table, brought together by a common goal, to take care of our neighbors. When I heard from Harvey how many people were going to be able to feed themselves from the work we had all done, I felt an immense amount of pride.  I thought back to when we were still running our raffle and how after a quick store announcement, groups of people would approach our desks wishing to help out, everyone from senior citizens with a few dollars to the little kids who could barely reach up to the height of our counter put on it a small fist full of change.  Everyone pitched in and every bit helped. I’ve always loved living in Brookline because of all the nearby amenities, safe streets and good schools, but every year, through actions such as these, I’m reminded why I and why we should feel proud to call ourselves residents of Brookline.”

This year’s totals will be finalized soon, but between the Benefit Dinner raising $4,720, the raffle, the Drive’s money and food collections, close to $20,000 was raised for the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry in the 2011 Feed Brookline Drive.

Additional photos 

By Catie Hayes, Editor