The decadent gourmet cheesecake topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries Barbara Shotz heartily enjoyed may have been a far cry from the prepackaged meals that she and other volunteers from the JCC Klein Branch deliver to needy seniors. But while the dessert and lavish June 23 party at the Inn at Penn entertained Shotz, she appreciated even more the event's financial contributions to the JCC's Kosher Meals on Wheels and Cook for a Friend programs.
"We're here to thank all of the funders," said Shotz, the Klein Branch's director of senior adult services. "If we can take care of the food end of it, seniors can remain independent and in their own homes."
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, which sponsored the dinner, provides needy Philadelphia seniors with more than 2.5 million meals a year. Because PCA is a government-funded agency, it is able to help other organizations with similar missions – hence, the party, billed PCA's Philly Meals on Wheels Corporate Dineout.
The proceeds came from those who bid on everything from sports tickets to gift certificates at a silent auction, as well as from corporations and individuals forking over thousands of dollars for tables at area restaurants.
A 'Shoestring' Budget
"These are programs that operate on a shoestring," said Pat Shanker, special-projects coordinator for PCA. "They have volunteer staff, they have private donated vehicles, they use government commodity foods. If they get an allocation of $5,000 or $10,000 – they're good to go."
A donation of $2,000 purchased a table for six at exclusive restaurants like Capital Grille, Astral Plane and Bridget Foy's. According to PCA, $2,000 provides 700 meals for needy Philadelphians.
Among the dinner's attendees, Jacqueline Shulman is now ready for her restaurant experience. She works at the law firm Obermeyer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, which purchased two tables with its $5,000 contribution. She doesn't yet know what restaurant she'll be going to; contributors are placed into a lottery determining where their prized tables are located.
"Every year we go, the restaurants have been terrific," said Shulman of Rydal. "We are treated as if we are royalty."
The auction boasted such prizes as tickets for four to a sold-out Dave Matthews' concert at the Tweeter Center, Philadelphia Phillies tickets and autographed sports memorabilia, as well as a number of gift certificates to high-end restaurants.
With the money from last year's campaign, PCA was able to give money to Aid for Friends, Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels, Cook for a Friend Program, Homelink's Meals on Wheels, Kosher Meals on Wheels Inc., Kosher Meals on Wheels North and Northeast and Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly.
So far, PCA has raised $110,000 for the above causes.
"The Meals on Wheels program is so critical," said Shulman, a former board member of the Jewish Publishing Group. "Sometimes, the only meal a day that someone gets is a meal that comes from a such a program.
"And, sometimes," she continued, "the only contact they have from someone outside of their apartment is from a Meals on Wheels program."