The East Meadow High School orchestra played classical music as hundreds of guests lined the hallways of the Carltun in Eisenhower Park on Monday during the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Culinary Delights.
“It’s been busy, but amazing so far,” Lyndsey Gallagher said. For the third straight year, Gallagher and Rosemary Basmajian co-chaired the event. They sold over 200 tickets to food-lovers from across Nassau County, and greeted guests as they arrived. Each ticket listed four charities on the back: America’s VetDogs, the Kiwanis Club of East Meadow’s Kamp Kiwanis, the Nassau/Suffolk Autism Society, and the Nassau University Medical Center’s Pediatric Department.
“The girls worked really hard for this,” said Frank Camarano Jr., the chamber president. “Each year it gets bigger and bigger.”
Camarano stood near the entrance to the ballroom, by a donated ice sculpture that bore the chamber’s name. He, too, greeted the guests, and credited the evening to Gallagher’s and Basmajian’s efforts. Each year, Gallagher said, 25 to 30 local restaurants — and others from across Long Island — offer attendees samples of their best dishes and desserts. This was Culinary Delights’ 15th year, and 31 local eateries and bakeries took part, to help raise funds for the chosen charities.
“The Autism Society is very near and dear to my heart,” said Diane Neustadt. An East Meadow resident of 30 years who recently moved to Plainview, she remained involved with the autism community in East Meadow. “Some members in my family are on the autism spectrum,” Neustadt added, “so any event that helps raise funds for children and adults who are on the spectrum truly deserves great recognition.”
This was Neustadt’s first time at Culinary Delights, but she vowed to return in years to come.
“I gathered successful women from different professions, and we all came here tonight to support some wonderful charities,” said Andrea Parker, of East Meadow. Parker, who recruited Neustadt, a longtime friend, to the event, is a special-education teacher who often works with autistic children. “There’s a wonderful variety of charities this year,” she said, “and although the Autism Society drew me to this event, we all plan on donating to all charities.”
The event also drew students, Board of Education trustees and administrators from the East Meadow School District, including Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Card Jr.
“I feel really great to be at an event that’s so big in the community,” said Samantha Epstein, 17, who, along with East Meadow High classmate Tyler McGowan, 17, tasted samples from restaurants they said they have always wanted to try.
“All of the charities that we read about are awesome,” McGowan said, “and at the end of the day, everyone here is raising money to help other people. And I think that’s what this event is really about.”
“I’ve never been to this event before,” Epstein added, “but who can ever say no to food and helping other people out?”
“We see the funds that are raised at this event put smiles on kids’ faces each year firsthand,” said Ross Schiller, president of the East Meadow Kiwanis Club. “People who donate to Kamp Kiwanis help send between six and 10 kids to an upstate summer camp each year.”
“A lot of kids gain confidence and learn social skills,” said Schiller’s wife, Melody. “Kamp Kiwanis caters to children with special needs, and this fundraiser is a big help to families who can’t really afford to send their kids to a traditional summer camp.”
“The Kiwanis Club is always thankful for the chamber’s help each year,” Ross added. “Each charity listed on the back of the ticket is incredibly important, as they help our own communities.”