Dining for a cause

Volunteer Center of South Jersey sets a date for annual Taste of the Community event.

By ANTHONY J. MAZZIOTTI III

The Sun

The Volunteer Center of South Jersey is a unique organization because it supports many causes. Where one nonprofit might go toward fighting cancer, and another is geared toward feeding the less fortunate, the Volunteer Center of South Jersey tries to match volunteers with the cause that best suits their needs. With that, it is only fitting the jack-of-all-trades organization would have a food sampling event as a fundraiser.

The Volunteer Center of South Jersey’s “Taste of the Community” is in its 21st year and is thriving. Executive director Michele Epifani said between 350 and 400 people are in attendance each year. This year, the event is scheduled for Monday, April 8, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Auletto Caterers in Deptford. There is a VIP reception from 5 to 6 p.m. as well. The event will feature 20 eateries from South Jersey, wine tastings and a cash bar. Tickets are available online at https://taste2019.eventbrite.com and are $75 apiece for the VIP package and $55 each for the regular event.

“It’s a fun event,” Epifani said. “It’s not like a sit-down dinner with a lot of speeches. It’s more of a fun, relaxing atmosphere.”

She added there will be vegan options this year as well.

The proceeds for the tasting go back into the volunteer center. Epifani said their goal is to raise $40,000 this year.

“It helps to operate the volunteer center all year long,” she said of the fundraiser. “It funds day-to-day operations as well as programs we do like the Martin Luther King Day of service, the family day of service and crocheting for a cause.”

Epifani added the volunteer center is aiming to provide more resources into education and helping its nonprofit partners with training.

In addition to the food and drinks, there will be a Chinese auction, 50–50 raffle and a jazz band playing. Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite food, and the winner will receive the prestigious “Tasters Choice” award.

Volunteer opportunities are available for those who are looking to lend a helping hand. Epifani said volunteers could help at registration, serve wine, assist in selling basket auction tickets or help clean up/pack up at the end of the night. Volunteers are given a shift, they will not be asked to work the whole event.

The volunteer center services Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May counties. According to Epifani, there are more than 3,500 volunteers in a database, and the volunteer center assists them in connecting with nonprofits that are registered with them.

“We make a lot of connections throughout the year and connect people with volunteer opportunities,” she said. “We’re supporting the nonprofit community by helping them find good volunteers and helping them with their volunteer management services.”

For more information, email Epifani at mepifani@sjvolunteers.org.