Breaking Bread and Telling Tales
As I come upon the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center’s setup for their KidShare 2015 gala at the Pfister, unhealthy I can tell immediately there is a good party in the works.
Typically during setup for these types of events, its not unusual to see harried minions rushing back and forth trying to put out fires before freshly scrubbed guests arrive for a night of revelry. But the JCC folks all seem to be smiling.
Micki Seinfeld, Special Events Director for the Harry and Rose Samson Jewish Community Center, turns a corner exiting the silent auction room, and she is ebullient. A big grin covers her face. Things are going smoothly with set up, and its still hours before anyone arrives.
Micki has great reason to be pleased. The silent auction that she, volunteers and staff are setting up is massive, well organized and has a myriad of interesting and highly biddable items. They have organized the auction into various groupings based on clusters of gifts, but my absolute favorite grouping is one called THIS AND THAT.
It’s the JCC’s equivalent of a grab bag, but a lot classier than any kind of white elephant offerings I’ve ever seen (a gorgeous menorah caught my eye as a THIS AND THAT gift).
Chad Tessmer, the JCC’s Director of Marketing & Communications, is circulating the work at hand, making sure everyone is focused and has what they need to make the event a night filled with magic. I have known Chad for some time and long admired him for his professional passion, commitment and consummate love of the bow tie. Micki nods to me as I explain that I want to hear more about the night’s festivities and says, “You want to talk to Chad. Chad can tell you EVERYTHING you need to know.”
When you spend your time listening for stories, you never want some marketing professional to be too “on point”—it just rings false. You do, however, look for those moments of connection when a marketing pro is genuine and authentic about the cause being promoted. Chad has that special quality down in spades. I ask him to give me a basic overview of what is going to take place at the event and he gives the perfect answer that makes me wish that I didn’t already have evening plans so I could come back and see the event unfold.
“Tonight is like all the events we hold in our community,” says Chad. “We’re going to gather for a great meal and tell some wonderful stories.”
The energy of the event is focused on family and nurturing relationships. This is the 26th year that the JCC has held their fundraising event at the Pfister, and you can tell that the people gathered who are getting the event ready for the public all feel like they’re at home. KidShare 2015 will raise funds for children’s programming and camps at the JCC. The context of getting folks together to break bread and share stories seems just perfect when your intention is to do something that helps kids.
Chad pulls Rabbi Shari Shamah aside as she is running to help with set up. She is a ball of energy dressed for real, honest work in jeans and a t-shirt. The good rabbi is all smiles and heart. She literally has her sleeves rolled up to help and dashes off after we shake hands.
Chad apologizes to me as he receives a text message and must attend to some last minute details, but tells me to check out a sculpture that is being built out of food cans. Plunkett Raysich Architects and Hunzinger Builders came together on the design and concept for the sculpture and the cans of food used in the display go directly towards supporting the needs of the clients of the Jewish Community Pantry. It’s a great riff on the Warhol inspired design aesthetic that celebrates the iconic soup can graphic in table displays and the fun and fresh decorations for the gala.
I gaze at pictures of smiling children engaged in camps and classes at the Center and survey the nametags at the guest table check-in. It’s going to be a full house later that night, and with a gathering the likes of which I’m sensing this will be, there is no doubt that the stories and good food will be shared in equal and ample proportion.
Rabbi Shari runs by and gives a final check-in with a volunteer before ducking into the elevator so she can take some time to get herself ready for the night. All is good, and as she leaves the hum of the ballroom she declares, “I’m off to get my nails done everyone! This is gonna be a fun night!”