The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: The Charlottesville 29 Auction

Burgers with Bronco at Citizen Burger Bar

Kindness is contagious.

Exhibit A: The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions. What began last year as auctions of once-in-life-time experiences at restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank ended up spawning so many acts of generosity that the auctions became known as the “gift that keeps on giving.”

Nearly a year after bidding closed, that continues. After much schedule juggling, one of the most sought-after auction experiences was held last night – Burgers with Bronco, a private dinner for the auction winner at Citizen Burger Bar with University of Virginia Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his entire coaching staff. In classic Hoo form, the auction was won by UVa’s second all-time leading tackler, Charles McDaniel, now President and CEO of Hilldrup Moving and Storage, with a bid of $3,500. Then, the runner-up turned around and gave $500 more to the food bank, just for the sake of kindness.

As if that was not enough, more benevolence came on the eve of the event. The auction prize was to include a professional photo shoot, but unfortunately a prior commitment – a fireman’s shift – prevented the original photographer from attending. Never mind – another generous Charlottesvillian to the rescue. Acclaimed photographer Tom McGovern happily volunteered to step in.

Thank you, Tom, for capturing these great images of the special event. And thank you to The McDaniel Family, Coach Mendenhall and his staff, and Citizen Burger Bar for their generosity. This one meal created more than 16,000 meals for the area’s hungry.

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Charlie McDaniel and UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall

Look for the Helpers: Fleurie Auction Dinner

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Look for the helpers. That’s the advice Mr. Rogers received from his mother to deal with scary news stories and then shared with the world. Some have drawn on it after unthinkable catastrophes like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Some might also find it useful during our presidential election. If the the election has shaken your confidence in others, Mr. Rogers’ mother would advise to look for the helpers and see that people are good. Beyond the bitter campaign, they are everywhere.

Here in Charlottesville, a good place to look is our food community. Consider the restaurants and winning bidders of The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, helpers who provided more than 320,000 meals to the area’s hungry. During the auctions, their generosity inspired other helpers – vendor, after vendor, after vendor coming forward with generous donations of time, products, and services.

And, there were countless more examples of helpers providing hope. After UVa’s second leading tackler in history won a fiercely competitive auction to have dinner at with UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the runner-up insisted on making a generous donation anyway. When one food business owner learned she had outbid another to win a restaurant’s auction, she invited him to join her for the experience she won.  A chef postponed a career move so that a bidder could surprise his wife with an auction dinner for her birthday. A restaurant owner sparked a bidding war for his auction after vowing to volunteer one hour of service at the food bank for every 100 meals it yielded. And, even after the auctions ended, a restaurant not in the auctions created a dinner to reward a multi-time runner-up, creating even more meals for the hungry.

With the bidding now complete, what a blessing it is to receive reports of the extraordinary auction experience, themselves – celebrations of generosity. The latest comes from the anonymous winner of the Fleurie auction item, pitched as a Dinner Party of a Lifetime:

For much of the exquisite food at Fleurie, the starting point is the home of chef-owner Brian Helleberg, where he grows his own produce. The auction winner and eleven guests will spend an evening at Helleberg’s home, where he will treat them to an unforgettable dinner party featuring produce from his garden and wines from his cellar. “I’m hoping to be able to give a glimpse of how my work as a restaurant owner and chef is so intimately related to how I live,” says Helleberg. The auction winner will have the opportunity to collaborate with Helleberg on the menu in advance, to ensure it meets guests’ tastes and dietary restrictions. And, wine writer and sommelier Erin Scala will personally make the wine pairings for the evening.

Last week, the winner enjoyed his dinner party, a spectacular moment of people sharing generosity with one another, all to support the area’s hungry.

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It began with assorted hors d’oeuvres and a cocktail of garden watermelon, vermouth, and herbs. Next came chicken en gelee, garden spinach, and radish, paired with Lallier 2008 Champagne.

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Then, herb crusted rockfish, garden legumes, and tomato, with a Nikolaihof Federspiel 2014 Gruner Veltliner. That was followed by Free Union Grass Farm duck, turnips, and fig gastrique, with an Henri Gouges Nuits St Georges 2005 Les Chenes. And, then, a Meadow’s Pride Lamb Degustation with Lascombes 2005 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend and Certan 2006 Right Bank Bordeaux Blend. As a special surprise, guests were even treated to a bottle of 1995 Lafite-Rothschild. Finally, dessert was a Croquembouche with ice cream, paired with a Merkelbach Brothers 2014 Riesling Spatlese ‘Urgluck.’

The day after the dinner, the winner wrote to me:

Simon, it was incredibly perfect in every way.  Brian and staff/friends/family, food offerings, wine, service, atmosphere and friendliness were all–ALL–first rate. Add to that my wife and I joining ten of our best friends at the affair and, voila, a perfect and incredibly memorable evening.

What a fabulous idea you conceived and executed.  Everyone wins . . . Brian was the superstar, not only that evening but for his generosity in coordinating and totally supporting the dinner.

If this all sounds a bit over-the-top and indulgent, consider that every penny of the $6,500 winning bid went directly to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank – enough to create more than 26,000 meals for the area’s hungry. Indulgence for a cause.

“If you look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers said, “you’ll know that there’s hope.”

Area Restaurants Create 315K+ Meals for Hungry

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Even if you’re not a money manager, you may have heard of ROI, a business term creeping into everyday conversation. Short for “return on investment,” it’s a simple metric to evaluate the efficacy of an investment – comparing the value of what you put in to the value of what you get out.

Over the past two months, in McGuireWoods’ The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, area restaurants have offered thirty-one separate once-in-a-lifetime experiences to entice donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Those 31 restaurant experiences yielded more than 315,000 meals for the hungry. How’s that for ROI?

The Auctions’ Heroes

Of course, many others have contributed to the cause as well. McGuireWoods LLP underwrote the entire thing, with a donation to cover residual expenses. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provided indispensable help. Elite University of Virginia coaches joined auction experiences as special guests. And, vendor, after vendor, after vendor came forward with generous donations of time, products, and services. One vendor donated coaster and poster design services and even threw in cash to pay for production.

Then there are the bidders. In some cases, an auction was won by a single individual with the resources and passion to make an enormous difference. In other cases, groups of friends pooled their funds to win restaurant auction experiences. In all, more than sixty bidders were among the winning donors.

It’s not just winners that helped, though. The unsung heroes of the auction were the runners-up, whose generosity and interest was essential to drive up winning bids, thereby creating more meals for the hungry.

The Right Thing at the Right Time: Moments of Kindness

At times I have wondered whether The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions did not belong in a year as unsettling as 2016. But when I thought about it more, I realized the auctions could not have been timed better. To combat the year’s repeated attacks on our confidence in human decency, the auctions have countered with reminders that, at their core, people are fundamentally good. There were too many heart-warming moments of kindness to document them all, so here are just a few.

After UVa’s second leading tackler in history won a fiercely competitive auction to have dinner at with UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the runner-up insisted on making a generous donation anyway. When one food business owner learned she had outbid another food business owner to win a restaurant’s auction, she invited him to join her for the experience she won. A group of husbands won an auction for their wives as a ladies night out. A chef postponed a career move so that a bidder could surprise his wife with a birthday dinner. The two largest donors in all of the auctions – $8,150 for The Ivy Inn and $6,500 for Fleurie – asked not to be identified, choosing generosity over notoriety. A restaurant owner sparked a bidding war for his auction after vowing to volunteer one hour of service at the food bank for every 100 meals it yielded. And, even after the auctions ended, a restaurant not in the auctions created a dinner to reward a multi-time runner-up, creating even more meals for the hungry.

A Special Food Community

Earlier this year, I asked the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 if they would be willing to create a VIP experience to auction off to the highest bidder, in support of the food bank. They all said yes. A few months later, we have more than 315,000 meals for the hungry.

How is that possible? It is possible when you have a food community as special and compassionate as Charlottesville’s. Entering the auctions, my goal for total donations was $29,000. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants, the total amount raised, including supplements to the winning donations, is $79,730. This is because each restaurant created an amazing experience that would never be available to a typical customer, and donated the entire thing, allowing every dollar bid to go directly to the food bank. I first arrived in Charlottesville nearly twenty five years ago, and I’ve never seen a greater outpouring of generosity by our food community.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how you can show your appreciation for the food community’s generosity. The greatest tribute would be to enhance the fruits of their labor, and create even more meals for the area’s hungry. In short, you can thank the restaurants for their efforts by improving their already amazing ROI. Below is how to make a donation to the food bank in gratitude for our food community’s amazing work.

Thank you in advance for your support. Let’s help the restaurants feed even more of the area’s hungry.

  • Online (3% fee): On the Donate page. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may “dedicate” your donation to “The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.”
  • By Phone: (540) 213-8406. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may state that your donation relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.
  • By Check: Payable to “Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” BRAFB, PO Box 937, Verona, VA 24482. Again, please note on your check that it relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.
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