Michele Byington is one of the co-chairs of Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Orlando event. We recently asked her to write about her experience and what Taste of the Nation means to her.
When I first saw the statement NO KID HUNGRY, I could have pictured it being said by a smiling pageant contestant in a similar fashion to wishing for world peace. After indoctrinating me into the information & data supplied by Share Our Strength, an organization focused on ending childhood hunger, I’ve now realized the goal is overwhelming.
Founded 25 years ago by a dynamic brother & sister duo, Share Our Strength reaches out to provide funding via grants, education and access to programs for those in need. After personally attending many galas & fundraising dinners for all kinds of charitable organizations I realized that I couldn’t gain the passion necessary to really help. Then along came Taste of the Nation.
With 17 Million children facing the insecurity of not knowing where their next meal may be, I finally felt the tug and the passion to help. Funding and finding basic needs for people should be easy but hearing that kids are hungry and that families make decision to pay the mortgage or groceries is frightening.
It also helped that I received a tap on my shoulder from a family friend, Brent Trotter, President & CEO at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. This tap was asking me to help chair the Taste event locally in Central Florida. It was certainly scary to take on the task of an event that was approaching it’s 21st year in existence while continuing to do my own job as a Private Banker with Regions Bank.
Our Central Florida has one of the longest running Taste events and continues to build alliances between our community partners, sponsors, patrons & the dedicated chefs with a common goal to raise money to help with the children in our own neighborhoods. This year’s event was another success due to the commitment from dedicated committee volunteers serving with me to orchestrate the event details, while mindful to the mission at hand to help the kids in need and risk of food insecurity.
We are also blessed to work with two amazing local beneficiaries: Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
The event has long been supported by Darden Restaurants through sponsorships, patrons, decor and fabulous food. Darden was joined this year by Orlando World Center Marriott who graciously hosted the event with an amazing display of hospitality. Other corporate sponsors included Disney, AirTran Airways, Regions Bank, Hilton Grand Vacations, Randy E. Schimmelpfennig, Jeanie C Linders Fund, AT&T, Orlando Regional Healthcare, Universal Nissan, KPMG, Massey Communications, BrightHouse Networks, Fields BMW/Minicooper and Rosen Hotels & Resorts.
The crowd of nearly 2,000 were entertained by a local band 3 Bucksworth, theatrics of 2nd Nature Productions and the culinary talents of Central Florida’s best and brightest chefs. As the amazing night closed out our committee could feel very proud of their efforts as the event in total raised $156,000 which will add to the $1.6 million raised over the previous 20 years to support the basic essentials in our community.
Due to economic climate resulting from the “great recession” the needs have increased and for the first time at Second Harvest those that had willingly given in prior years were applying for assistance. Our committee members were given a framed quote reminder to thank them for their help and support. The quote: Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something ~Author Unknown.
If you’ve got something to give to help end childhood hunger we need you on the committee for 2011!
Michele Byington, CFP®