The way Ken Jaffe sees it, nobody can say no to chocolate.
So when Brookline Rotary started looking for a new annual fundraising event to boost its charitable giving, Jaffe suggested the club gets as much chocolate as possible in the same place at once. Within a few months, organizers had more than 20 vendors on board, all donating their chocolatey goods for the cause.
“Chocolate is a real feel-good item,” said Jaffe, president of Brookline Rotary and an executive at Wainwright Bank. “This type of event opens the doors to the entire community so the young and old, everybody, can enjoy it. Very few people don’t like chocolate."
All the planning will come to sweet fruition , as a variety of restaurants, sweet shops and Brookline organizations set up an all-you-can eat buffet of chocolate at the Brookline Holiday Inn. The event, dubbed “Have a Heart: A Chocolate Extravaganza,” will donate all proceeds to Brookline’s Emergency Food Pantry, which is seeing a rapidly increasing demand as more families struggle to put food on the table.
The extravaganza is part of Brookline Rotary's new push to redouble its charitable work in the community. Organizers hope it will become an annual event, alongside Rotary’s popular pancake breakfast held each March.
“Although we do good work, we don’t do enough of it,” said Jaffe, who is pushing the club to keep busy with new projects all year long.
This year, Rotary had chosen to direct its charitable giving toward the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry, which distributes free food to and toiletries to the town’s neediest families at St. Paul’s Church three days a week. The pantry has seen steady growth in need for years, but organizer Jim Margolis said the number of people coming to the pantry skyrocketed suddenly in the last 12 months.
Margolis said visits to the pantry jumped from 2,700 in 2009 to 3,400 in 2010, breaking all records for the organization. Because food donations stayed steady from the year before, Margolis had to buy more food to make up the difference and ended up spending a total of $75,000, up from $45,000 the year before.
“It’s a dramatic increase,” Margolis said.
Rotary leaders don’t know how much they’ll be able to raise for the pantry, but Justin Burke, one of the organizers, said Rotary hopes to sell 300 to 400 tickets at $10 to $15 a piece in advance, and $15 to $25 at the door. All of the chocolate is donated by vendors and the space has been donated by the Holiday Inn, he said.
“This could conceivably be, financially, the biggest event Brookline Rotary has ever done,” Burke said. “We’ll have to see.”
The extravaganza will also include music, drinks and a silent auction for a variety of prizes, include Red Sox tickets.
So far, vendors include:
Brookline Rotary encourages attendees to buy their tickets online. Tickets will be $25 for adults and $15 for seniors and children at the door. Children age 5 and under are free.