Chocolate and romantic dancing are synonymous with Valentine’s Day, but at two upcoming events they also are being put in the service of a good cause. The Chocolate Lovers’ Brunch – held at Diamond Mills, the newly opened hotel and conference center in Saugerties, on February 12 – is benefiting the adolescent services offered by Family of Woodstock, Inc., so you can have your Valentine’s Day chocolate, so to speak, while helping teens without a home: a satisfying expression of love that transcends the merely personal and romantic.
The benefit will help raise more than $300,000 needed to run Family’s two adolescent programs. Family House, located in Bloomington, provides a home for teenage runaways, while Midway, with locations in Kingston and Ellenville, is a transitional living program helping homeless young people aged 16 to 21 without family resources to get back on their feet, either by attending school or through employment.
Running the programs has become more challenging in the face of drastic budget cuts, with Family House losing a $200,000 federal grant three years ago and state funding cut by 70 percent over the past four years; the cumulative loss is $91,000 this year, according to executive director Michael Berg. While he said that Ulster County supports the programs, it hasn’t been able to make up the shortfall.
Berg said that both programs serve as essential safety nets – by, for example, preventing kids from landing in jail, the psych department at Benedictine Hospital or some other institution at much greater cost to taxpayers, not to mention lasting psychic scars on the individual at risk.
Last year, Family House, which has a capacity for 12 kids, served 150 teens, while Midway has capacity for 34 kids, including pregnant teens and teen parents. Berg said that two babies were born to women in the program last year, and a total of five babies resided at the facilities, representing a critical need. He said that Family House is located in Bloomington because it’s in the center of the county, which enables residents to continue attending school in their home districts: a federal requirement that helps maintain stability in their lives.
Tickets to the chocolate brunch, which runs from noon to three, are $50 per person, including a cocktail hour, brunch and live jazz. Enjoy your mimosa or Bloody Mary while taking in the view of the roaring falls on the creek before sitting down to a sumptuous brunch, which will include cannoli pancakes, chocolate-chip waffles with chocolate strawberry syrup, crepes, smoked salmon frittata and chocolate bananas Foster. You can also dip fresh fruit or a piece of bread into a melted chocolate “fountain.”
Meanwhile, local musician Bruce Katz will be playing blues and classical melodies on the piano. A silent and short live auction will offer many appealing items, ranging from a week at a vacation home on Cape Cod to memorabilia from the B-52s, fine wines, artisan chocolate from local chocolatiers, illustrated coffee-table books, handcrafted jewelry, spa and restaurant gift certificates and a catered picnic lunch in a sculpture garden.
Diamond Mills Hotel is located at 25 South Partition Street. To purchase tickets, call (845) 331-7080, extension156, or visit www.nycharities.org/events/EventLevels.aspx?ETID=4540.
Valentine’s Dance & Food Drive in Kingston this Saturday benefits area food pantries
The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, located at 300 Wall Street in Uptown Kingston, offers another opportunity to share your love with the larger community: its annual Valentine’s Dance and Food Drive, held February 11 from 7 to 11 p.m. Bring a nonperishable food or dry goods item and get in free.
Donations will be distributed to Angel Food East, Dutchess Outreach, Jewish Family Services of Orange County and the Queen’s Galley. Cash donations to one of those four organizations are also welcome. Last year, the event collected 500 pounds of food for area food pantries. This year, the need is even greater, given the devastation from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which left many people homeless.
Deejay John Martin and guest deejay Retts Scauzillo will supply the music. Scauzillo, a woman of many talents, will also perform some of Frank Sinatra’s music as her alter ego, Frankie. Soda, wine and beer and free snacks will be served. For more details, contact Katherine@LGBTQcenter.org.