The annual Chocolate Festival rates as the sweetest fundraiser for the Donald L. Heiter Community Center in Lewisburg and organizers are working to deliver a virtual experience that satisfies donors’ cravings and supports youth programming at the nonprofit.
Sweeten Your Spirit: 2021 Chocolate Festival features an in-person — though pandemic-altered — Chocolate Tour on Feb. 5 and Feb. 6. The annual gala moves online Feb. 6 to become the Chocolate Festival Un-Gala.
Organizers set a fundraising goal of $35,000. Proceeds benefit before- and after-school programs and summer camp. Last year’s live gala raised $52,000 for the Heiter Center.
“We’re trying to be realistic but hopeful at the same time,” said Leslie Hosterman, vice president of the Heiter Center’s operating board. “It’s our single largest fundraiser of the year. Without that funding we have a very serious shortfall.”
Already underway are online fundraisers Raise the Paddle which supports specific initiatives like after-school snacks and COVID-19 cleaning supplies, along with the Professional Display Contest where guests choose a donation in honor of any of four favorite chocolate-inspired recipes and win a chance to have that dish delivered to their door — chocolate ravioli by Brasserie Louis, chocolate cream pie by Country Cupboard, chocolate brownies by Elizabeth’s Bistro and cannoli cake by La Primavera.
Tickets and scheduling information for both the Chocolate Tour and Un-Gala along with links to the online fundraisers are available at www.donaldheiter.org.
The Heiter Center has been closed since December due to pandemic precautions. Its executive director, Andrea Tufo, continues to recover after contracting the virus last month.
“The Heiter Center doesn’t get public funding from either the state or federal governments. They really rely on fundraisers like this one to help keep the lights on and keep things going,” said Melissa Apanel, Chocolate Festival organizer.
Hosted by Chad Evans of 94KX and Stone State Entertainment, the Un-Gala begins at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6. It features special messages from Heiter Center families, a video update about the nonprofit, virtual wine tasting with Union Cellars, cooking with That Kitchen Witch, make-together meal kits and, of course, chocolate.
The attend-from-home event allows donors to choose from four single-serve pizza meal kits plus family add-ons for additional pizzas. There are also options to purchase a variety of craft beer from New Trail Brewing Company and wine from Union Cellars. The items will be scheduled for delivery in the Lewisburg area on Feb. 6 ahead of the event.
The Chocolate Tour is from 5-8 p.m. Feb. 5 and noon-3p Feb. 6 in downtown Lewisburg. Masking and social distancing are required. Guests can choose specific timeframes to tour town, an effort to reduce crowding. Families are encouraged to safely stroll downtown and pick up individually wrapped chocolate treats at outdoor locations designated on a map provided at registration.
The Lewisburg in Lights displays will shine Feb. 5 and a family friendly scavenger hunt will be held Feb. 6. Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, CommUnity Zone and Campus Theatre are assisting the tour.
Chocolate Tour donors can simply pick up their treats at a drive-thru at the Lewisburg Children’s Museum. The first 100 participants at this location will also receive a special STEM hot chocolate activity kit.