A string quartet — four members of the East Meadow High School Chamber Orchestra — greeted guests who were dressed to the nines as they lined up outside the Carltun, in Eisenhower Park, on Monday for the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce’s 17th annual Culinary Delights.
In the lobby, neighbors greeted one another and browsed some 100 raffle baskets, each donated by a local business, before entering a dining hall that was a replica of downtown East Meadow.
Community members sampled familiar dishes from Frank Borrelli, of Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant, learned about a new beer with Jared Kane, of Beverage Barn, and sampled Stew Leonard’s famous Swedish meatballs.
“I think everyone’s having fun,” event Co-chair Lyndsey Gallagher said with a laugh as she hurried between guests to ensure operations were running smoothly.
“Everyone’s having a blast,” replied chamber President Michael Levy. “There’s something for everyone here.”
For the fifth straight year, Gallagher and Rosemary Basmajian chaired the event, the chamber’s largest fundraiser. Each year, 25 to 30 local restaurants — and others from across Long Island — join forces for a feast that generates donations for local charities. This year’s beneficiaries were America’s VetDogs, Nassau University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics, the East Meadow Kiwanis Club’s Kamp Kiwanis and the Nassau/Suffolk Autism Society.
The chamber has been donating funds to NUMC since the first Culinary Delights in 2002. “The chamber’s support has allowed the Department of Pediatrics to purchase items that help make a child’s stay in the hospital as pleasant as possible,” said Linda Walsh, a representative of NUMC.
Funds generated at the event have been used to purchase new medical equipment such as a vein finder, which makes it easier to start IVs on children. The pediatric unit has also used Culinary Delights’ proceeds to purchase bedside video games and refurbish its waiting room and the activities room in its child psychiatric unit. As well, the chamber and the hospital co-sponsor a Reach Out and Read program, in which patients younger than 5 are given books to take home after their visit.
Kiwanis is also a beneficiary because, Basmajian said, “We really have a blended relationship with Kiwanis. It’s an organization that does a lot of good for the community.” Each year the club sends 36 children to Kamp Kiwanis, near upstate Rome, which offers a summer camp experience to those who might not otherwise have it.
America’s VetDogs joined the fundraiser in 2014, after Basmajian met a puppy raiser for the organization at her father’s American Legion post in Suffolk County and heard about its services. “We wanted to do something to help veterans,” she said.
Founded by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in 2003, America’s VetDogs pairs service dogs with veterans with lingering injuries, disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical impairments. Service dogs are provided at no cost to veterans, active military personnel, first responders and others wounded in the line of duty.
“We’ve built a really great relationship with the staff here and the vendors, who keep coming back each year,” Gallagher said.
Asked what goes into organizing an event like Culinary Delights each year, she added, “Being persistent. And follow-up. It definitely takes follow-up, because you need a lot of help.”
Each spring, chamber members and local business leaders partner with finance classes at East Meadow and W.T. Clarke high schools for a program called Mock Interviews, in which students learn how to build a resume and sell their skills to employers. Gallagher reached out to the students and recruited several volunteers, who checked guests in at the Carltun, gave out raffle tickets and showed them around the buffet.
The best part of the night, Gallagher said, is that guests know they are contributing to a local cause while they feast.