Posts tagged ‘volunteers’
Two northwestern sections of Philadelphia were jumpin’ on Saturday, January 26th. Weavers Way, the fabulous community owned co-op that has made a name for itself in the Philadelphia region, held its annual Gluten-Free Day from 12 until 4 p.m.
This year, the savvy folks at Weavers Way expanded the event to include both their Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy stores. Bettina de Caumette, Outreach Coordinator at Weavers Way, put the day together to everyone’s delight. Frigid weather aside, the day seemed just right to explore the wonderful world of gluten-free goodies.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was on hand in both locations to discuss the gluten-free diet and to go beyond that to the underlying need for this special approach to the menu: celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
The NFCA team was pleased and proud to have two long-time, stalwart and extremely knowledgeable volunteers distribute literature and answer shoppers’ questions. Becky Lownes Urbano returned to the post she manned last year in Chestnut Hill. Annsley Klehr took a brisk walk from home to spread the word in Mt. Airy. Tema Esberg, a new member of the NFCA volunteer team, joined Becky in Chestnut Hill.
Chestnut Hill store manager Dean Stefano and Mt. Airy store manager Rick Spalek each donated an enormous basket of gluten-free products for a raffle benefiting NFCA. One lucky winner from each store went home with a bounty of delicious treats that will have them trying out new items and enjoying old favorites. For our part, NFCA is grateful for the donation that will go toward our educational programs.
On a normal Saturday, about 1,100 people pass through the doors of Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill. That number swells significantly on Gluten-Free Day and this year was no exception. I don’t know how many came to the Mt. Airy store but it certainly was a steady stream of eager shoppers, many with questions about gluten-free food and celiac disease.
In short, it was great! The NFCA team is looking forward to Gluten-Free Day 2014 at Weavers Way!
Appetite for Awareness 2012 is over, but the office is still buzzing with excitement. When you focus on preparing for an event for months and months, you can’t help but feel a sense of relief and happiness over the success of the event.
I joined the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team back in May, so this was my first time at Appetite for Awareness. Leading up to the event, I attended planning and update meetings and absorbed all the fine details that go into coordinating an event of this size. Last week, NFCA staff and our wonderful event planners, Phyllis and Ed, went over the final plans, and I thought I knew what the event had in store for all its gluten-free guests. I never could have imagined how big Appetite for Awareness really could be, and how much it could mean to the community.
The venue was the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia. For those of you who have never seen it, the building is unbelievably beautiful. It used to be the Strawbridge & Clothier building, but was just converted into a venue for special events. It has that historic look to it, with the grand staircase in the back, low hanging, bright chandeliers, and a working fountain in the walkway that divides the massive floor space. On Sunday, tables snaked through the main hall, loaded with vendor tables all handing out gluten-free samples to the 1,500 attendees.
So here’s how Appetite for Awareness goes: You come through the door, grab your NFCA tote bag and start eating! All of the vendors and restaurants get their own table and they serve only gluten-free food. Even better, all of the restaurants in attendance are trained by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program, a training course that teaches chefs all the ins and outs of preparing gluten-free food safely. This is what makes Appetite for Awareness so special. From the pasta samples served by the restaurants, to the brews chilling in the beer garden, it’s all gluten-free. There are no questions to ask your server. There are no concerns about cross-contamination, because nothing containing gluten comes through the door. Everyone there knows what the gluten-free diet is and why it’s so important to those living with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. For once, people on the lifelong gluten-free diet can just relax, eat and have a good time without making special preparations, calling ahead or packing their own snacks.
I spent most of the day walking through the Strawbridge building, snapping photos, live tweeting from the event, and doing Twitter giveaways. (Shout out to Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple & Crunchmaster, Blue Diamond and PJ’s Beef Steak for providing us with the gluten-free giveaway items. You guys rock!)
I didn’t get to try all of the dishes, but from the massive lines of people eagerly devouring their samples while reaching for another one, I know the food was delicious. A returning favorite were the soft pretzels from Tonya’s Gluten-Free Products, which earned rave reviews at Appetite for Awareness 2010, too. I saw people running to go have a pretzel or two (or three or four). Kids were covered in pizza sauce, and sticky fingers were everywhere. It was an awesome sight.
Personally, I was super excited to meet the people that I talk to on social media all the time. I met Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun, Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple, and the Appetite for Awareness honoree himself, Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly.
NFCA honored Michael Savett at the event for his major contributions to the gluten-free community living in the Philadelphia area. When his son was diagnosed with celiac, Michael started teaching restaurants about the gluten-free diet and kept track of the restaurants that could cater to his son’s special dietary needs. Instead of keeping the information to himself, Michael started Gluten Free Philly for everyone in the area to benefit from. A driving force in creating more availability for gluten-free options, NFCA would once again like to thank and congratulate Michael for his efforts.
Check out the tribute video NFCA made (with the help of Michael’s friends and family) to say thank you.
I had a blast at Appetite for Awareness 2012, and based on the tweets and Facebook comments, it seems like everyone who attended agrees. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors, the support of the NFCA board and advisory council members, and of course, our amazing volunteers and staff who put in countless hours to make Appetite for Awareness 2012 a fun and safe event for the gluten-free community.
Visit the NFCA Facebook page to see some of my snapshots from the event and stay tuned for the professional photographer’s pictures to come. While you’re visiting the Facebook page, tell us your favorite part of Appetite for Awareness!
There are so many people to thank and recognize for their contributions to Appetite for Awareness, especially Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, KYW Newsradio 1060, PREIT, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and West Chester. Click here to see all of our amazing sponsors and participating restaurants and vendors.
Thanks to all who came out to make Appetite for Awareness such a memorable event!
It’s time for NFCA’s Appetite for Awareness!
The NFCA Team is very excited about the 2012 edition of this signature event. I can’t wait to see which doctors are paired with which restaurant to prepare and offer true gluten-free delights to our guests. Appetite for Awareness brings out the gourmet in most of us as we table hop between the booths of some of the best restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Today, I learned that there will be about 60 exhibitors who are ready to highlight the latest gluten-free products and distribute educational materials to all attendees. Add the Beer Garden with flat screen TVs and “the game,” the Children’s Pavilion with games for the whole family, and cooking demos for the Julia Child in each of us, and you have quite an afternoon!
How does the NFCA Team make all of this happen? The short answer is, we don’t. Well, more correctly, we don’t do it alone. Each year, a small army of volunteers puts on their Appetite for Awareness T-shirts and jumps in to help.
Our guests will meet them all, from manning the registration desk to helping at the NFCA Shop to selling tickets for the drawings (including a lease on a Mercedes-Benz!) and much, much more. This volunteer corps is an essential ingredient in the success of each and every Appetite for Awareness that NFCA has held over the years.
This year, over 75 volunteers plus a cadre of students will take the floor to make this the best event ever. Some are first-timers who will be amazed and others are old hands who know the ropes and always are enthusiastic.
If we held a contest for the volunteer who traveled the greatest distance to get to the Historic Strawbridge Building, Cecelia Bonaduce from Baltimore probably would win (plus, she originally hails from California). Most years as an Appetite for Awareness volunteer? Probably Karen Dalrymple and Donna Sawka. Husband and wife teams — Jen and Kenny Arters, Judy and Mike Paul, Eva and Marv Schlanger. More family ties — Patti and Jessica Townsend, Amanda and Sam Beeler, Jody and Bruce Finkel, Sandy and Rachel Cogan, Eileen and Jim Grady. And, organizing this whole team—Julie Cooper. Amazing!
Looking forward to a great time!
Celiac Disease Information, Please!
Even the slightest brush with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders can bring questions to mind. Lots of questions. The first question usually is … where do I turn for the answers that I need right now?
Most of you know that all of the information on www.CeliacCentral.org is available free of charge and to all comers. The site covers lots of topics from “What is Celiac Disease?” to “Can I eat spelt on a gluten-free diet?” to getting the scoop on the latest research in the field.
But, from time to time, you just need to ask someone who can and will respond to you directly and personally. Enter the marvelous ladies who have volunteered to answer the questions coming to NFCA via info@CeliacCentral.org.
Last month while I was visiting my family in Virginia, I slipped away to Washington, DC, to have lunch with one of these amazing women. Gayle Wald has been ‘manning’ the info@CeliacCentral.org account for over three years, come rain or come shine. She has helped to train the new kids on the block and, undoubtedly, has dispensed answers and information to hundreds of writers with questions about their own situations.
When Gayle is not helping fellow celiac patients, she works as a professor at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and is Chair of the Department of English there. She lives in the District with her husband and son.
At Gayle’s suggestion, we had a healthy and delicious lunch at Founding Farmers, a restaurant specializing in farm-to-table fare just a few blocks from the White House vegetable garden. And, yes, they serve gluten-free dishes.
Unbelievably, this was the first time that I had met Gayle personally. It was great fun getting to know the woman behind the email address. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is extremely fortunate to have the benefit of her experience, along with the true care and concern that all of the ‘Women of Info@’ bring to this program. I truly look forward to meeting each one personally, a neat trick as they live across the country from Pittsburgh to Wyoming to Iowa and beyond.
So, when you send NFCA an email, you will encounter one of these very special volunteers:
Rebecca Lownes Urbano
A huge thanks to them all –and to Joanne Gallagher for keeping their “on duty” schedules straight. They are maaahvelous!