Taste of Crawford County provides worldly fare

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 80 views 

VAN BUREN — It was a food extravaganza at Van Buren High School on Thursday (Aug. 16), as hundreds gathered for the 13th annual Taste of Crawford County benefiting Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Crawford County.

To carry out this year’s theme, “A Culinary Delight from Around the World,” vendors served up everything from good ole’ fashioned barbecue and mashed potatoes to pizza and classic Mexican cuisine. Trays of dessert including cakes, cupcakes and cookies helped satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth, as did the frozen yogurt station complete with candy toppings.

Two tastings were held to allow more people to take part in the event. “Tasters” had their choice of partaking during a 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. lunch session or a 5-7 p.m. dinner session.

The annual fundraiser helps raise both dollars and awareness about the need for CASA volunteers. Committed to serving some of the area’s most at-risk children, CASA of Crawford County’s mission is to “recruit, train and support volunteer advocates who will serve to ensure safe, permanent homes for abused and neglected children in the community.”

In 2011, CASA served 112 of the 168 children in the county’s foster care system. The organization’s goal is to provide an advocate for every foster child in Crawford County.

“CASA is central to fulfilling society's most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child's right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family,” said CASA Executive Director Celeste Lewis. “The CASA volunteer is the one consistent person in the child’s life until a permanent, safe placement is determined.”

With only one full-time and one part-time staff member, CASA relies heavily on the support of its volunteers. All volunteers must undergo training before serving as a court advocate.

Stressing the importance of the event, CASA Board President Debbie Faubus-Kendrick explained that recent funding cuts at the national level have made local fundraising efforts even more crucial to the organization’s continued success

“Nationally, CASA lost approximately $68 million dollars in funding because of federal spending cuts, “ said Faubus. “As a result, events, such as Taste of Crawford County, play an even more important role in raising the necessary funds to help CASA continue its work in this area.”

The 2011 Taste of Crawford raised over $15,000 for CASA. Lewis said that the goal for this year is to raise $20,000.

Tickets were $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Donna Young, CASA board treasurer, said 1,100 advance tickets had been sold and that many more had been purchased that day.

In addition to supporting CASA, both the Boys and Girls Clubs in Van Buren and Alma received proceeds from the advance tickets they sold prior to the event.  This year, both clubs raised nearly $2,000 from ticket sales.

Participants were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite foods and vendors. The People Choice Awards include categories for “Best Taste,” “Best Beverage,” and “Best Dessert.” A prize is also awarded for the “Best Ethnic Cuisine” and the “Best American Cuisine,” as well as an award for the “Best Dressed” vendors. Awards are announced in the days following the event and businesses are presented with plaques to display in their stores.

Truly a community-supported effort, volunteers from Van Buren schools and other organizations also took part in the Taste of Crawford County by serving at the two sessions and by helping sell chances on donated items. Cheerleaders and dance team members from Butterfield Middle School in Van Buren earned their dinner by selling $2 chances to win gourmet cakes.

“We are grateful to the many businesses, individuals and organizations who help make this event possible,” said Faubus-Kendrick. “We sincerely appreciate all the donors, vendors and volunteers, as well as those who buy tickets and come out and support this great cause.”