Part of the Community Brunch fundraiser on Sunday was a friendly competition between four charities to get the largest share of a donation from the Costa Family Foundation – but all came out on top.
Charities found new donors learned to curb or eliminate overhead costs, and for some the event was the highest-earning fundraiser of the year.
“Anybody with an asset can contribute to the brunch, whether it’s a person who buys a $50 ticket or a company in the egg business,” said organizer and local entrepreneur Dan Costa, who served about 2,000 omelets Sunday. “Everybody gives a little bit and everybody wins.”
Costa said he wanted the charities to approach the event like a business would, promoting the work they do to maximize their profits.
He said only 5 percent of the food for the event was purchased; the rest was donated.
Proceeds in excess of $300,000 benefited four main charities: the Society for Disabilities, Modesto’s Salvation Army and Red Shield, the Stanislaus County Police Activities League and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County. Members of local Boy Scout troops acted as food servers.
The four main charities each will also get 20 percent to 33 percent of more than $110,000 donated by the Costa Family Foundation, based on how well they promoted the event, their food and decorations, and overall earnings. The winner, Costa said, won’t be announced for another week.
Youth who benefit from each of the charities were on hand to greet patrons, clear tables, serve up food and tell people about the programs.
Law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Adam Christianson and Deputy Bret Silveira, the deputy director of the Police Activities League, worked over open flames flipping omelets alongside Costa. Perhaps not surprisingly, many patrons said it was the fastest-moving, most efficient line at the brunch.
Lt. Caroline Rowe, of the Salvation Army and Red Shield, said she expects the event will bring in as much as its most successful fundraising event, Kids’ Day, which this year netted $92,000.
Kathy Hobby, fund development specialist for the education foundation, said competing with the other charities for donors pushed her to go beyond the usual suspects.
“It makes you go out there and do some cold calling, and visit with people and learn more about their business,” she said. In turn, she got to spread the word about the foundation and explain its role in the community.
“I try to teach them that the community will give to them if they ask,” Costa said.
Having his name associated with the event was a huge advantage when approaching potential donors, Rowe said.
“He is giving us an avenue to go to our donors and say, ‘People in the city who are really influential are going to see your names,’ ” she said. “It really gives us a vehicle to go to our donors and actually give them something for their donation.”
With big names in the local restaurant scene like John Surla, executive chef of Surla’s Restaurant in Modesto, and Vincent Alvarado, executive chef at Modesto’s Dewz Restaurant, she said eliciting donations for food was easy.
All the food was in high demand at the Modesto Centre Plaza, where the event took place.
Hundreds of people filled tables, where they sipped champagne and mimosas and indulged in crepes, omelets and pastas. Lines wound around the perimeter of the banquet hall for almost the duration of the event; many people sampled food from each station.
Kristal Stepps, whose family owns Ferrarese’s Deli in Oakdale, said she enjoyed the scrambled eggs benedict and the shrimp cocktail. She said the decorations helped to transform the banquet room into an elegant setting.
The Society for Disabilities featured the color purple in its newly designed logos for much of its decorations. Huge, glittery Mardi Gras masks adorned the walls near their crepe station, and miniature signs for historic areas in New Orleans served as the centerpiece for each table.
Alongside carved fruit, the Salvation Army had ice sculptures, inside of which was a poster with the faces of children served at the Red Shield Center. Some of those same children donned adorable chef’s uniforms and helped describe the dishes to diners.
“It’s couscous,” said 7-year-old Seidi Rodriguez to a diner from under her oversized chef’s hat.
Janassa Romero, 10, told people about the programs offered at the Red Shield Center.
“I’m greeting them with a pleasant attitude,” she said. “If someone comes up and they are having a bad day, I want to make them smile.”