Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Art for food is event’s goal

When a small group of people come together for the good of others, they can achieve great things.

That’s the case for friends Francine Epstein, a ceramic artist and teacher; Gail Mardfin, an artist; Jacki Spinelli, director of the Chester Food Pantry; and Sarah Borda and her husband, Steve Berstler, owners of Mama’s Grace Cafe in Chester where there’s a special effort in the next few weeks to help out the hungry.

There’s a benefit Coffee House event on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Through Thanksgiving, the cafe is dropoff spot for food pantry donations, and donated, handmade ceramic bowls and other works of art will be sold there all month, all to benefit the food pantry. The collaborative effort, called BountiFull Bowls, is in its second go round this year.

The event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mama’s Grace Cafe, at the rear of 52 Main St. in Chester. The fundraiser will feature recording singer-songwriters Mef Gannon and Angela Adams, Christy Segale and Lisa Deane and the Dirty Blondes Band, as well as a host of other musical talents. Admission is $12.

Last year, Borda and Berstler opened their shop on a Wednesday night, a day they’re usually closed, to have an energetic evening of music, food and art, all to benefit the Chester Food Pantry. The charity needs more food than ever this year because of the loss of jobs from the economic crisis.

“We had standing room only for the Coffee House in here,” said Borda, who has owned Mama’s Grace Cafe with her husband for almost four years. “It was really the first event we had done here with music, and it was a collaborative event between the musicians who came in here and donated their time, Gail, the woman who has done all our graphic design, and then Francine Epstein, who is the woman who’s made all the bowls,” he said.

“And then we donated the place, and I think we made around $3,000 that night between coverage at the door and selling bowls for $20 each,” Borda says. “The full proceeds go to the Chester Food Pantry, so this year, we’ve sold all of our bowls already except for one, and our potter is actually supposed to be bringing us some more bowls soon.”

But the love for the community doesn’t stop there. Also all month, Mardfin will display soup-themed art on the colorful walls of Mama’s Grace Cafe in an exhibit titled, “ ‘Mmmm Mmmm Soup!”

“ ‘Mmm Mmm Soup’ is Gail’s show,” Borda said. “She’s going to have her artwork hanging for six weeks.”

Berstler added, “If something sells, it’s going to go to the food pantry. That’s why she’s hanging it. She makes a big donation to that.”

Borda and Berstler also see these events as a good way to market themselves and their friends to the general public, who all do a great deal for the community.

“We’re all winning here,” Borda said, “the families of Chester here and Mama’s Grace and Gail and Francine — so we’re all happy about that.”

The Chester Food Pantry has been run by Spinelli since 2001 and has grown by such a great measure that she had to move it to North Road in Chester. Spinelli’s motto is: “We do not turn anyone away who demonstrates a need for this supplemental source of food and necessities.”

To contribute, bring food to Mama’s Grace Cafe from now until Thanksgiving. Peanut butter, canned fish, powdered milk, dried beans, macaroni and cheese, flavored rice and baby food are all highly appreciated.

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