The table had been set – well, almost.
Home of the Sparrow – the Exton-based nonprofit that partners with women facing homelessness to help them secure housing, achieve long-term economic and social stability, and chart new paths for their future – had been planning its annual fundraising dinner for months.
The organization, founded in 1994, would also be celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The date and location for the big event: Saturday evening, June 1 at The Phelps School in Malvern. Number of guests: 350.
Preparations were well underway.
Home of the Sparrow had engaged a volunteer chef to purchase, prepare, cook, and serve the food. The menu would feature salmon, prime rib, risotto, vegetables, soups, and an assortment of appetizers.
A fellow nonprofit, the Chester County Food Bank, the central hunger relief organization in the county, had graciously offered to let the chef use its kitchen facilities in Exton.
Everything was good to go when, suddenly, the Wednesday before the event, the chef called Home of the Sparrow to say he had a medical emergency. He would not be able to help with the dinner.
A desperate Home of the Sparrow quickly called the Food Bank seeking advice and help. The Food Bank responded quickly and agreed to purchase, prepare, and pre-cook the menu items for the 350 dinner guests. Chef Ranney Moran, the Food Bank’s director of culinary programs, and Chef Dwayne Burton, its kitchen operations manager, volunteered to take on the tall order.
Chefs Moran and Burton got to work on the Thursday and Friday before the event. Chef Burton also enlisted help from some of the adult students in the Food Bank’s FRESHstart Kitchen, a culinary training program that educates and prepares unemployed or underemployed county residents for opportunities and sustainable employment in the food service industry.
Due to conflicts in their schedules, Chefs Moran and Burton, however, were not able to work the event itself on Saturday.
Three local chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Philadelphia Delaware Valley Chefs Association: Cindy McClure, Christine Neugebauer, and Peter Gilmore – stepped in to provide the on-site food preparation and service for the event, which went off without a hitch.
“It was a lovely night, and the food was delicious,” said Home of the Sparrow Board President Stacy Sempier. “It was a successful evening for Home of the Sparrow. The Chester County Food Bank helped us out because we are partners in the nonprofit world. This was an example of the nonprofit community coming together to do good things.”
“We were happy to help out a friend in a time of need.” said Chef Moran. “We have a long-standing relationship with Home of the Sparrow.”
“I really can’t thank the Chester County Food Bank enough for all of their help,” said Michelle E. Venema, Home of the Sparrow’s CEO. “What an amazing nonprofit who really came to our rescue in so many ways. I love collaborating with them to serve our client’s food insecurities, but in this case, they helped us, a fellow nonprofit. The collaboration and ‘can do’ attitude each and every one has at the Food Bank is truly awe-inspiring.”