Gala 2002 is a second helping of goodwill

NEIGHBORS

April 04, 2002|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A DINING extravaganza -- "Gala 2002, A Star Spangled Evening" -- will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight April 12 at the Earleigh Heights fire hall. And, by the time diners have finished their meals, served by well-known area restaurateurs and beverage sellers, they may feel downright patriotic about the quality of dining in Central County.

Preparing food will be Cafe Boulevard, Cafe Mezzanotte, Garry's Grill, Wood Fire, Bill Bateman's Bistro, Romilo's and Gourmet Connection. The list also includes Heavenly Ham, Mische's Deli, Ledo Pizza, Severna Park Pizza & Subs, Texas Steaks, Sam's Club, Atlanta Bread Company and Chesapeake Bagel Bakery.

Dawson's Wine and Spirits Shoppe, Goska's Liquors, The Big Bean and City Dock Cafe will offer wine and coffee tastings.

The Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce and the Severna Park Jaycees cooked up the evening of dining, dancing and auctions, hoping to repeat the success of the first gala, held in 2000.

"I had people clamoring for us to do this again," said Linda Zahn, executive secretary of the chamber. The first gala's proceeds bought decorations for the community Christmas tree that stands by the chamber's office in Old Severna Park. A portion of this year's proceeds will benefit Christmas in April, Anne Arundel County.

Christmas in April volunteers have repaired more than 200 houses since the group was organized about 10 years ago.

"Our mission is to repair Anne Arundel County one home at a time," said Executive Director Marilyn Henderson. "We repair houses for low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners in the county. We also build ramps for handicap access."

The partnership between the Jaycees and Christmas in April began last fall when the Jaycees introduced a five-month series of classes about the complexities of managing projects.

"Each class has to run a community service project," said Michael Geertruy, Severna Park Jaycee president. Working with the chamber, the Jaycees decided their project would be to help repair one of Christmas in April's houses.

Eighteen houses are scheduled to be repaired April 27, which Henderson calls Christmas in April's "big day." Volunteers repair homes 10 months of the year. A board of 17 interviews applicants during November and December, the group's downtime, Henderson said.

While repairing 200 homes is impressive, Christmas in April sets high standards for itself. "Our goal is to do everything in one day," Henderson said. Volunteers arrive in the morning and by the time they leave, the job is complete.

Geertruy's favorite Christmas in April story shows how intense the rewards can be. He was working with Jaycees from Annapolis and Severna Park about two years ago.

"The house belonged to a 90-year-old Annapolis resident," he said. The woman's daughter, who was 70 years old, and her grandson, who was 50, lived with her.

"While some of us took the family out to dinner and to do a little shopping," Geertruy said, "about 100 volunteers came over and took everything out of the house. We washed and painted, and even added some new furniture.

"When the three came home, the 50-year-old man came out to thank us, but he couldn't because of his tears of gratitude."

There has been at least one exception to Christmas in April's one-day rule. It involved an extensive project last year that included electrical work, plumbing, roofing and painting on a two-story house. That project took four days, 11 sponsors and as many as 70 volunteers, Henderson said. Not only were the homeowners happy, but the project won a $2,000 "Make A Difference Day" award from USA Magazine for the county-based organization.

Christmas in April has 75 houses approved for repairs and more than 53 applications since January, Henderson said. How much the organization can do depends on the amount of donations and the number of volunteers.

"We need skilled volunteers to put people into homes that are warm, safe and dry," Henderson said.

Tickets to Gala 2002 are $25. Gala information: 410-647-3900. Christmas in April information: 410-263-0405.

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