The first annual Taste of Union, an event to celebrate Union County NC’s unique and wonderful cuisine, is set for Saturday, September 26 from 5 pm to 9 pm in downtown Monroe.
The event will showcase food samples from over 20 restaurants around the county and will include musical entertainment, a silent auction, and raffle prizes. First Presbyterian Church, Union Surgical Associates, BB& T and the Union Symphony are sponsoring the event.
And the best part? It is all for a good cause. Proceeds from the fun food-tasting event will benefit Operation Reach Out, a long-time ministry in the Monroe community which provides grocery and fuel assistance, clothing and household items, counseling and other programs to those less fortunate.
“I think (the event) can be great for our county, our restaurants, and our people,”
said Modene Howie, an Operation Reach Out board member and co-founder of the 25-year-old ministry. Howie said the mission has had small fundraisers in the past, such as raffles and a turkey shoot, but that this was its first major charity benefit. “We have needed an event that was individually ours,” she said.
Kathy Ipapo, the organization’s board president and five-year volunteer added that the benefit will be a way to raise awareness about the group’s ministries. “My big hope for this fundraiser is that it will let more know that Operation Reach Out exists, and how it touches the lives of so many people,” she said.
The idea for Taste of Union came from a past fundraiser in Mineral Springs, called “The World’s Largest Buffet.” Each year, the town’s community group, of which Howie was a member, would solicit specialty dishes, cakes and casseroles from volunteers in the town to host the dinner which raised money for local projects, such as signs, landscaping, clean-up campaigns and other projects. Howie thought a similar venture would work for Operation Reach Out, but with a slight twist. Local restaurants would donate the food instead of residents.
The evening will be a taste of Union County food culture, offering everything from shrimp and grits and beef brisket to pasta and meatballs, pizza, and chicken wings. Appetizer, dinner and dessert samples will all be included as part of the fare.
“It will give people a chance to taste the foods from restaurants they might not have been to,”
said Ipapo. “I see it as a big plus to the restaurants to promote their businesses.”
The entertainment will include the Norris Boys and Natural Grass (featuring David Lee), the Union Symphony Youth Orchestra Ensemble, and pianist Jim O’Dell.
Patrons will also have an opportunity to bid on silent auction items, including a beach weekend, gym membership, autographed Panthers cleats (DeAngelo Williams), dinner for six from a local restaurant, gift certificates and other items.
The evening will end with two raffle drawings for a 42” LCD television and a $500 grocery gift card. You do not have to be present to win.
Howie said money raised from the event will bolster Operation Reach Out’s fuel fund and food supply and help purchase additional items individuals might need. “We try to help those who are in crisis through no fault of their own,” she said, adding that the group receives referrals for help from local agencies, such as Social Services and Community Action, as well as from ministers, principals and volunteers.
The organization is funded in part by churches, individuals and Finders Keepers, its resale shop.
Taste of Union will be held in the family life center at First Presbyterian Church at 302 E. Windsor Street in Monroe, NC. Tickets are $20 in advance, and $25 at the door and can be purchased at participating restaurants, Operation Reach Out at (704) 289-4237 or the Union Symphony office at (704) 219-3936. More information is at tasteofunion.org.
More about Operation Reach Out
Operation Reach Out was founded over 25 years ago in an effort to preserve and distribute perishable food collected from area grocery stores, restaurants, etc. that would have been discarded otherwise. The 501(c) charity organization has expanded its programs to include the following services:
- Distributing food through Joseph’s Storehouse to low income working families, the elderly and families in crisis situations.
- Operating a program that provides free electric fans in the summer and funds for fuel in the winter.
- Offering a program that helps purchase/recycle school uniforms.
- Operating two re-sale shops – Finders Keepers & Finders Keepers Too – which sell donated clothing and household items at reasonable prices.
- Proceeds from items sold help support the many programs of Operation Reach Out.
- Providing food, clothing, household items and necessary funds for those in emergency crisis situations.
- Assisting with the ”Lord of the Harvest” free meal each Thanksgiving.
- Offering Bible study and free lunch daily.