The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

May 4, 2014

Celebrity Gossip

Local stars set to score big donations for United Way

BECKLEY — The word celebrity comes with certain prepackaged connotations: Hard to please, high-maintenance and haughty being among them.

The celebrities set to serve patrons for tips to share between United Way of Southern West Virginia and the Women’s Resource Center, however, are a different, homegrown variety. Motivated for charity over personal applause, participating restaurants and their business partners have planned their versions of star power for months, each interpreting “dinner and a show” to earn big bucks for the community, tomorrow night, May 5, beginning at 5 p.m.

Although the competition to raise the most is ultimately a united effort, at the end of the evening, it’s still a showdown. This year the landscape has shifted with no clear winner to bank on and event rookies Outback, Black Knight Country Club, Fujiyama and Beckley Moose Lodge added as potential top spot spoilers.

Previously dominated by Bunker’s at The Resort at Glade, the competition to earn the most cash in tips, and in some cases a portion of the night’s dinner proceeds, is up for grabs, according to United Way Executive Director Margaret O’Neal.

“Bunkers came in three years ago and won every year,” O’Neal stated, adding the decision to regretfully decline invitation to this year’s event was friendly and business-related, resulting in a formatting shake-up and a fresh bracket of possibilities.

With The Dish being closest in proximity to The Resort at Glade, could the bounty of supporting patrons fall there?

“The champ is out, but what we’d love to see is those faithful Glade members and residents to come outside of the resort to eat at one of the other restaurants,” O’Neal commented.

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Black Knight Country Club, open to the public one night only, is also near enough to earn its fair share of Glade patronage. Beckley Mayor Bill O’Brien, along with Police Chief Lonnie D. Christian and Fire Chief Billie Trump invite diners to “come and complain about your potholes” at the typically members-only club.

“We’re out to win,” said Mayor O’Brien of his supporting City of Beckley team. O’Brien admitted he hasn’t served with Celebrity Night since back in the days of Tiki Garden Restaurant, when he accidentally spilled a glass of water on his wife, Lynn. He anticipates the challenges are still the same.

“It’s tough work… serving is not an easy job.”

O’Brien has at least one thing in common with regular waitstaff: “I always carry a pen and paper,” he confessed, recording the concerns of those who care to voice them, the kind of unfettered access O’Brien expected in serving the public.

“I take my wife out to lunch every day. I’ve lost 10 pounds because I never get to finish a meal now — but listening to people, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

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Proximity to Glade is no sure-fire indicator for the win. Boston Beanery, according to collaterals, may be the one to watch. Bolstered by the support of Crossroads Mall and media partners United Bank, WVNS/Fox 59 and Crossroads Chevrolet, the restaurant closing in on No. 1 for three years now may finally achieve victory.

In addition to dinner, expect a huge auction to sweeten the giving pot and to tantalize donors with what nearby Fayette County has to offer. Organizer and Crossroads Mall General Manager Kathy Housh said, “Our auction is famous. We have an adventure package with ziplining and rafting and one to experience all of the great Fayetteville food, with certificates to Gumbo’s, Cathedral Café, Secret Sandwich Society, Diogi’s and Pies & Pints.”

The food for Celebrity Night at Boston Beanery is what Housh feels will be the biggest draw.

“I’m always proud of Boston Beanery’s food — the pizzas are amazing with a homemade Italian crust, the wings are award-winning. The quality of food coming from a West Virginia restaurant that’s not a big chain excites me.”

In addition to the auction of adventures, Crossroads Mall will also auction Dolce & Gabbana fragrances from Belk, Coca-Cola 600 tickets with pit passes and a Vera Bradley tote courtesy of Wisteria Gifts of Fayetteville.

Former “X-Factor” contestant and local celebrity Colton Pack will serenade and local “United Way Dancing With The Stars 2014” contestants Tim Newsom and Lisa Gale are scheduled to make an appearance, Housh reported.

“We expect to have an enormous amount of fun and we try to cover Fayette County because the WRC and United Way served it tremendously.”

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This isn’t Calacino’s first rodeo; technically, it’s their fourth year of participation in Celebrity Night, but assisting the Women’s Resource Center is the fuel behind owner Jerry Zaferatos’ fire to raise as much money as possible.

Back in the ’80s, when the retired teacher and wife Kathy were certified in counseling, the first training they did was at WRC.

“Since then, we’ve always helped them whenever we could. Our real estate office buys coats, toys and stuff the kids they work with need. They are our reason for doing this,” he said.

This year, servers and celebrity bartenders may come from any of several partners with the restaurant, including event newcomer Jan-Care Ambulance, Spartan Sporting Goods, BJW Printing and Hayden & Hart, PLLC. Rumor has it chances will be sold on site to take out the day’s frustrations with a sledgehammer on a lemon — a donated, beat-up vehicle. Live entertainment is also a distinct possibility, says Zaferatos.

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El Mariachi has the calendar advantage of tomorrow night’s activities, doing what they do best on Cinco de Mayo — serving up the area’s favorite classic Mexican dishes along with business partners Beckley Newspapers and Chase.

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Foster’s in Uptown Beckley is taking it to the streets with a full-on block party. Event founders Susan Landis, Debbie Short and Judy Harrah, along with UC-Beckley and City National Bank representatives, will be present to witness the flood of giveaways attracting customers and donors.

According to Harrah, family, kid-friendly events are scheduled inside and out, but will move completely indoors if it’s raining. Spirits can hardly dampen no matter the weather with face-painting for children and a variety of adult entertainment — grabbing cash inside the money machine, dowsing local celebs in a dunking booth and buying chances to win round-trip tickets for two to Myrtle Beach and to Washington, D.C.

“We are also selling chances to win five $100 gas cards from Little General, jewelry, a rafting trip from Ace Adventure and ice cream for a year from Tamarack,” Harrah stated.

A selection of dining and entertainment baskets will also be drawn for from raffle tickets costing $1 each, $5 for six or $10 for 12.

“There is also a special grill menu from Foster’s for the night, including chicken, salmon, ribs, hamburgers and fresh salads,” Harrah added.

Beckley Area Derby Dames are set to serve on skates, with Groovy 94.1 spinning classic tunes throughout the evening.

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Who will rise to the top spot by earning the most for United Way of Southern West Virginia and the Women’s Resource Center? That depends on the appetites and whims of Celebrity Night diners and donors, who can’t make a mistake with their choice of restaurants.

The need is critical no matter where families choose to eat, explained O’Neal. With Mercer and McDowell counties added to her service area, along with the city of Bluefield, Va., the challenges of meeting basic needs continues.

“Our focus is on the children. We have to show kids that there is more to life than you see in a high poverty home or one with a drug problem.”

Past Celebrity Nights have earned $35,000 to $40,000 in a single evening, a boon to two organizations relying on the generosity of business owners, partners and local residents for improving life for those in difficult circumstances in the surrounding communities.

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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