NEWS BITES - Dining Out For Life 2010

Every day, thousands of people all over America eat out at restaurants for lunch and dinner, enjoying delicious food experience that is created for them by a host of chefs, cooks, and waiters. We often think nothing of being able to eat out at a restaurant with our families and friends on a regular basis. Yet there are others for whom eating regularly and receiving proper nutrition is a daily challenge. And once a year, Baltimore’s residents can simultaneously dine out and help people who need our support.

Dining Out For Life is an annual fundraiser held nationwide that raises money for local AIDS organizations. Moveable Feast has been holding Dining Out For Life in Baltimore for 17 years. At participating restaurants, a minimum of 20% of proceeds from breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner are donated to Moveable Feast. Last year, fifty-three restaurants participated and we raised over $70,000! All the money went to help our clients, who are fighting HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and homelessness.

Restaurants also benefit from this event. Not only do they receive promotions on fliers, posters, radio, and television, but each restaurant is assigned an Ambassador. Ambassadors work very hard to encourage their neighbors, friends, and family to eat at their assigned restaurant on the day of Dining Out For Life. As a result, restaurants often see an increase in their patronage on the day of the event.

This year, we talked to Shana Carmel Challmes, who has been the Ambassador at our longest-participating restaurant, Mt. Vernon Stable & Saloon, for the past seven years. 

What initially drew you to Dining Out For Life and this particular restaurant?
It was a simple decision. This is a wonderful cause. My friends work at Mt. Vernon Stable, and it’s a fun environment with great food. The customers are one-of-a-kind!!

Why do you enjoy volunteering for DOFL each year?

Because I know that this will be one day of the year that I know I can make a difference.  So I work that much harder for those that are in need.

What is your favorite part?

Ooh…picking out my outfit…that first impression is a lasting one.  I have regulars that come every year to see what I am wearing. In fact, now that I am doing this interview, I think I have to step it up a notch!

What is your favorite dish at Mt. Vernon Stables? Why?
The toasted raviolis are by far my favorite.  I can pop one in my mouth in-between table hopping!

What is your funniest experience as an Ambassador?
It has to be from 2 years ago when I knelt down to speak to a table of four.  As they placed what they could afford in the envelope I got so excited that each individual was filling out an envelope that I had not noticed that my shoe was stepping on the hem of my skirt and I jumped up as my skirt was pulled down.  Good times.  I think they gave more.

Dining Out for Life is for a great cause that often can hit close to home. What was your most touching experience?
Now I have heard many stories from people on why they come out for DOFL, but nothing ever prepared me for this. Most Ambassadors know certain tables might just be off limits for you to go up to.  They give you that “look” or they wave you away before you even approach. Last year this woman came in, didn’t make eye contact and was a little taken aback as I sat her down at her table for one. She sighed as she breezed through the menu and didn’t seem too interested in all the festivities around her. I introduced myself and asked if I could sit with her and tell her what I am doing here this evening.

She quietly obliged me and began to explain that she knew what tonight was.  “You see”, she said now finally making eye contact with me, “I lost my best friend to AIDS only but a few months ago and I did not know what to do for him.”  We began talking about Robert and his life and she began to light up as I laughed and choked back a few tears.  I sat with her throughout her meal as she told me how excited she was that she finally had the courage to come out to DOFL - that she had the opportunity to celebrate him as a person but that she was also giving to a great cause.  We made a pact to see each other at DOFL every year. I look forward to seeing her on September 23rd.

Dining Out For Life this year takes place on September 23rd, 2010. For a list of participating restaurants, please visit diningoutforlife.com/Baltimore.

Want to be an Ambassador on September 23rd? Contact Amanda Fisher at afisher@mfeast.org, or call 410-327-3420.

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