Photo by Valerie Baldowski
John Warner serves fresh fruit at the Publix Supermarket booth, during the Taste of Henry event that featured a variety of American and international food samples at the Jason T. Harper Event Center on Friday.
At the Ninth Annual Taste of Henry on Friday, enthusiastic food lovers packed the Jason T. Harper Event Center in McDonough to satisfy their taste buds and raise money for a worthy cause.
Taste of Henry is the largest fund-raiser for A Friend's House, according to Nan Jenkins, one of the organizers of the event, and the director of development for the non-profit residential facility that provides shelter and safety for abused, abandoned and neglected children. Since the home opened its doors in 1998, more than 1,500 children have stayed there, according to Jenkins.
"This is what we call our signature event," she said. "It's our thing for A Friend's House, and we really depend on this. We have to raise 46 percent of our budget, ourselves, so it's fund-raisers like this, plus donations people give, that help us through the year."
The facility also receives financial assistance from the state in the form of a per diem per child, plus additional funds from the county, she added.
The noise level was high on Friday evening, as cooking aromas of all sorts wafted through the air, and families browsed the large arena, sampling the food at booths set up by local restaurants and super markets.
Among those attending were Sharon and Lavelle Monroig, of McDonough, who brought their 4-year-old daughter, Mariah. The family was eating barbecue at a table draped with a red-and-white, checked tablecloth.
"We always come every year, to participate in the charity event," said Sharon Monroig. "It's really about the event, and what we're here for the kids. This is our way of doing [that] and at the same time, we're having a great time."
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the event, she continued, is the social contacts made. "You get to sit down and meet people," she said. "We're getting to know people ... and we're sitting down breaking bread with each other. We're making friends."
Also at the event was Amanda Salley, of McDonough, who was seated on the cement floor of the arena with a plate of barbecue, surrounded by her sister, her husband, and her two young children. "This was something we could all do to have fun," she said.
This year is the second year Salley has attended Taste of Henry. This year, she said, the food was even better than previously. Her favorite samples, she said, were the barbecue from Shane's Rib Shack, and fresh fruit from a local farm.
One of the vendors at the event was Bliss, a cake-decorating studio and bakery that recently opened on the McDonough Square.
Shelley DeLisle, owner of the business, chose to participate in Taste of Henry to help children in need, as well as gain exposure for her new store. "The main reason is, because I like A Friend's House," she said. "We like to support the charity, and one of the other vendors that came here said this is a really good place, if you're starting off, to get known. I thought, well, let's kill two birds with one stone."
DeLisle said that, in the past, she had a neighbor whose children were sent to A Friend's House. Because of that, the charity has a special meaning for her.
"To me, it's sort of a personal thing," she said. "I think if you can do something, you should."