Taste of Cambridge Benefits 5 Local Charities

Taste of Cambridge Benefits 5 Local Charities

Taste of Cambridge is more than good food and drink -- it's an opportunity to assist people in the community who are in need.

“We really lucked out on the weather,” said Elizabeth Lint (at left in photo above). It was Thursday, July 11. Ticket-holders for Taste of Cambridge were streaming in through the gate at Sidney Street and University Park, and Ms. Lint was busy handing out the colored wristbands that showed whether they were over 18.

Photo, right: David Pap is president of the Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF), a beneficiary of the event. The Taste of Cambridge mascot at his side sported an array of culinary "medals."

The popular food- and drink-sampling event had already been postponed twice because of stormy weather. This time it was going to happen, rain or shine.
And it did shine. At 5:30 p.m., under a balmy sky, customers lined up to graze and sip their way through acres of goodies served up by 100+ local restaurants and drinks purveyors. The tents rented for the occasion were dry – perhaps they had helped ward off rain.

Elizabeth Lint is Executive Director and Counsel for the Cambridge License Commission; she is also active with the volunteer Cambridge Licensee Advisory Board (CLAB), which sponsors Taste of Cambridge. CLAB’s mission is to support efforts by liquor license holders to prohibit sales to minors.

“CLAB shares the proceeds from Taste of Cambridge with local non-profits that help to advance that goal,” Lint says. “Each year we review the applications and choose which ones to support based on how they tie in with our mission. Some of those we are supporting are focused on helping homeless people, for others it may be prevention or treatment of alcoholism and drug use.”

Tickets to the tasting were $50 for adults (or $75 for admittance to the special treats and events in the VIP section). That’s a sizeable commitment, but it was for a good cause: support for five local charities:
The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF)
On The Rise, Inc.
Food For Free
Faith Kitchen Corporation
CASPAR, Inc. (Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Rehabilitation)

The five non-profits are described briefly below. Each one had a booth at the event, with staff and volunteers eager to explain what they do.

So how did Taste of Cambridge do financially, given the earlier weather problems?

“We did pretty well,” Elizabeth Lint said Monday. The returns hadn’t all been tallied yet, she said, but it looked as if the total could approach last year’s best-ever figure of $50,000. That wouldn’t be the whole story, however.

“There’ll be extra expenses to deduct this time, because of the two postponements and the tent rental,” she said.

CLAB's co-chairs for this year’s Taste of Cambridge were Robin Lapidus of the Central Square Business Association; Michael Weiner of SavMor Spirits; Juliana Lyman of Savenor's Butcher & Market; and Elizabeth Cerrato-Venatas of Bukowski Tavern.
About this year's five beneficiaries:

The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF) was set up just inside the Sidney Street entrance at the north end of the event. David Pap, president of CHAF's Board of Directors, was circulating nearby. He stopped in to talk about the aims of the organization.

Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund  booth staffed by workers from Homestart, a CHAF partner.  Left to right, Anthony Guardia, Juana Cherif, Belinda Leick, Brianne Edwards (seated), Sally Bunch, Jared Faucher. "The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund is tremendously appreciative to be designated a beneficiary of Taste of Cambridge," he said. "The funds donated will help homeless families to move from shelters and streets to homes." Photo: The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund booth was staffed by workers from Homestart, a CHAF partner. Left to right, Anthony Guardia, Juana Cherif, Belinda Leick, Brianne Edwards (seated), Sally Bunch, Jared Faucher.

Pap explained that CHAF provides one-time assistance grants to help pay for first/last months' rent, security deposits, and other moving-in costs. The organization works with the Cambridge banking community to raise funds for those expenses, and it also partners with the Cambridge Multi-Service Center for the Homeless and with HomeStart of Boston and Cambridge to help people locate housing and get settled.

On The Rise staff and volunteers at Taste of Cambridge. Left to right, Stella Dennig, Milas Bowman, Sarah Bender, Carol Thompson, Stephanie Hubbell.On The Rise, Inc. was set up in the booth next to CHAF on Sidney Street. The people behind the counter were spreading the word about the day program for women who are homeless or who face challenges such as domestic violence and abuse, addiction, legal difficulties, joblessness, and mental or physical health issues. Photo: On The Rise staff and volunteers at Taste of Cambridge. Left to right, Stella Dennig, Milas Bowman, Sarah Bender, Carol Thompson, Stephanie Hubbell. The bottles hold iced coffee Growlers donated by the 1369 Coffee Houses for raffle prizes.

On The Rise is based in a roomy Victorian house at 341 Broadway. Each year the program serves about 400 women; it starts by providing some basic necessities – a safe place to spend the day, a meal, a shower, seasonal clothing, access to a phone and a computer. Women who are ready to confront longer-term issues can count on professional staff assistance and advocacy. On The Rise helps them seek housing, and its "Keep The Keys" program helps them get settled and deal with landlords and contracts.

“We accept them as they are, and over time we help them become part of a community,” Development Assistant Stella Dennig said. “That’s probably the most important thing we do.”

#Food For Free staffer Michelle Holcomb (right) and volunteer Leslie Kogan LaRocca.The Food For Free booth was at the south end of the line of booths on Sidney Street. "Food For Free rescues fresh food that would otherwise go to waste,” Development Director Michelle Holcomb explained. “We collect it and deliver it to food programs and pantries, shelters, all kinds of places that serve meals to people who are at risk of going hungry.” Photo: Food For Free volunteer Leslie Kogan LaRocca, at left, and staffer Michelle Holcomb, right.

Food For Free provides food for 83 area programs, according to Holcomb. Some of the programs operate in large dormitory-style facilities, others in small spaces that serve only 5 – 10 people. Deliveries also go to housebound individuals – people who are elderly and disabled, or people struggling with challenges like addiction or obesity.

The food – about a million pounds per year – comes from a variety of sources such as wholesale and retail stores, farms, and farmers’ markets, and from bakeries, restaurants, or other food preparation sites.

CASPAR workers Brian Duffy and Beth Auterio.CASPAR's booth was set up next door to Food For Free. CASPAR serves people with substance abuse disorders. It offers numerous services such as shelter, stabilization, residential care, aftercare, education, and prevention. Clients also have access to benefits such as health care, vocational training and employment searches.

Brian Duffy (at left in photo) and Beth Auterio (right) were on duty here. They are street outreach workers; Duffy has been with the organization for 6 years, Auterio for 3. Duffy said he is familiar with the homeless lifestyle.

“I grew up in homeless shelters in the ‘90s,” he said. “Here we’re on the street all the time – people know us. We start small – some people just want a pair of socks or some underwear. We don’t try to rush them into treatment until they’re ready.”

Headquartered at 5 Middlesex Avenue in Somerville, CASPAR has two residential treatment facilities for men and one for women in Somerville. In Cambridge it operates a residential facility for women plus a shelter at 240 Albany Street.

Matthew Pearson left, president of Faith Kitchen, with Jeff and Leslie Jones. Faith Kitchen was the fifth of this year’s Taste of Cambridge beneficiaries. Its booth was set up in the park area between Blanche and Lansdowne. Faith Kitchen is based at Faith Lutheran Church, 311 Broadway. An interfaith project, it is a corporation in its own right; its president, Matthew Pearson, works at the Broad Institute and is a part-time student at Harvard Divinity School. (Photo: Pearson, left, describes the program to Jeff and Leslie Jones.)

“It’s all-volunteer; we partner with Temple Beth Shalom and with the Islamic Society of Boston, which is over on Prospect Street,” Pearson said. “The food comes from the Food Bank and other donors, and we have a concert to raise money every year – our budget is only about $10,000. We come in at 5:30 p.m. and start cooking, and then we all sit down together and eat.”

“We’ve been in operation for about 12 years now,” he said, “and we’ve served more than 10,000 people – whoever shows up at 6:30 on the second and last Tuesdays of the month. Each year it seems as if there’s less food and more people in need of it.”