Nonprofit organizations providing invaluable services still have to operate despite the coronavirus pandemic. With fundraising events frequently being shelved, many have had to employ some creativity to draw in dollars critical to their survival.

For Beth VanDerbeck and her team at Morningstar Children and Family Services that entailed figuring out how to host a fundraising dinner without actually gathering to break bread. The not-for-profit campus offers therapeutic services to children and youth who have multiple diagnoses, often including intellectual disabilities. So that work, of course, cannot be interrupted.

VanDerbeck says the organization had to re-think their strategy when it came to the group’s annual dinner typically held in October.

“Like all organizations, we’re trying to manage through a pandemic. A lot of organizations felt that they have had to cancel their events but we really count on this to help us run the children’s home, so we decided to pivot,” she said.

They chose opted for a virtual program but with the dinner still provided courtesy of Halyard’s on St. Simons Island. The Oct. 17th “Dinner Under Your Stars” event (a twist on the typical title, “Dinner Under the Stars”) will feature a five course meal crafted by chef Dave Snyder. Participants can arrange to pick-up their dinners or have it delivered to them.

“Who doesn’t love a Halyard’s dinner, right? But we felt this was the best way to be able to hold the event safely. Participants can enjoy a great meal in their own home and maybe invite friends to join around the table in a small group setting, still following the CDC guidelines,” she said. “You’ll still have that warm feeling knowing you are helping the kids here.”

In some cases, she adds, there are sponsorship options that allow for a chefs to come to private homes.

“You can go online and look at all of those options,” VanDerBeck says.

The website also outlines the meal, which will be a classic one. The first course will consist of antipasto small plates followed by salad created with local produce and a seasonal vinaigrette. The main course will be the ever-popular braised short ribs and roasted fingerling potatoes. Dessert will be a delectable pumpkin cheesecake.

“The meal comes well-packaged with reheating instructions so you can have a great dinner,” she said.

The children who live on the Morningstar campus in north Glynn County will also enjoy a meal there. In addition to the Dinner Under Your Stars, participants will receive a link to a private silent auction available online.

“We’ll also have a program of thanks for our sponsors,” she said.

Dinner reservations must be placed online by Oct. 9. While it is a departure from the norm, VanDerBeck feels it will still be a solid line-up that generates positive results.

“We just kept thinking and asking ourselves if it would be safe to put up a tent and do all of those things. But we decided that we’d just take a cue from how the restaurants have handled the pandemic with the to-go food — so we deiced to do that,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We’ve gotten a great early response. And not only will it help the children here but also Halyards and the farmers that grow the food they use.”

Overall, Morningstar wants to be able to use the proceeds from the evening to create better lives for the children who live there. It’s an important mission, one that VanDerBeck hopes the community will support once again.

“Our theme is ‘Creating Home’ so it’s our hope that as people sit around their homes they will think about the fact that we’re creating homes for these children — up to 57 — who live in the three cottages here,” she said.

“And just like your house, ours needs the important things — fresh linens, furniture, washer and dyers — all of those things that you need. So we hope that, as participants sit at home during the program, they think about all of the things they’re making possible for these children through their support.”

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