Guest blog by Mary-Catherine Freeman
December 3rd was the evening of our Savor Sweeter Dreams event, and one of the first nights of the holiday season that truly felt like winter. With a crisp chill in the air, people from across Wake County bundled up and made their way to Crawford & Son Restaurant to support and celebrate our Sweeter Dreams program with an evening full of delicious food and rich conversation.
Upon entering the restaurant, attendees were ushered into the warm and intimate gathering by Executive Director Jackie Craig and future Green Chair Project board chair, Phil Kowalczyk.
The meal was prepared by three of the Triangle’s most esteemed chefs including Ashley Christensen, Scott Crawford, and Matt Kelly.
Not only did all three of these renowned chefs donate their time, energy, and effort to creating an evening no one will soon forget, but the entire waitstaff and kitchen crew volunteered to come in on their day off free-of-charge to make sure the event was seamlessly executed.
The goal of the Sweeter Dreams program is to provide children across Wake County with a bed of their own. School social workers identify children who are without beds during the academic year and refer them to The Green Chair Project’s quarterly bed distribution. While many of us often take a bed and a restful night of sleep for granted, it is far from guaranteed for these children who are instead crammed into beds with other family members or forced to sleep on the floor.
How did this event come to be?
Four years ago, Phil and his wife Gretchen learned about our Sweeter Dreams program after donating some furniture to The Green Chair Project. Upon finding that approximately 5,000 children in Wake County do not have a bed of their own to sleep in, the Kowalczyks rallied behind our cause and committed themselves to doing whatever they possibly could to help.
The Kowalczyks came up with a plan of action that was three-fold: to build community, create a special, intimate gathering, and, most importantly, “to get kids off the floor.” As Phil says: “local needs, local friends, local chef, and doing good in a fun and elegant way that inspires us to do more.” Phil reached out to Scott Crawford to put together a multi-course dinner, and asked Wine Authorities to come up with wine pairings. While only five couples attended that first Savor Sweeter Dreams dinner, the evening netted $4,750–enough to fund 32 beds, surpassing their original goal of 20.
Fast forward three years later to 2017, and you will find that our Savor Sweeter Dreams dinner has grown significantly. After years of involvement, Crawford graciously offered to put a new twist on the event by hosting it at his restaurant. This also allowed us to expand the event by increasing the number of attendees to 60. Each ticket was $250, which is the exact amount that it costs to provide a child with a new bed, including a twin mattress, boxspring, bed frame, and a set of bedding. Several attendees chose to pay an extra $250 to attend the before-dinner cocktail hour and provide not one, but two children with beds.
“In the days leading up to the event, while tickets were selling out, requests for beds were flooding in from our partner social workers connected with Wake County School students, said Craig. “Miraculously, the funds from the total ticket sales amounted to the exact amount necessary to provide a fully equipped bed for each child in need this holiday season.”
“This event exemplifies the impact that we can have when we gather together as a community to put ideas into action. It inspires us to dream bigger and to continue fighting for the day when every child in Wake County will have a bed of their own,” Craig said.
On Saturday, Dec. 10, beds were delivered to 78 children across Wake County. Because of all the support and contributions from the Savor Sweeter Dreams dinner, each of these children now has a place to rest their head, they have a space to call their own and they have something that actually belongs to them. When you donate to the Sweeter Dreams Program, you are giving a child far more than a piece of furniture; you are giving them dignity and a chance to feel safe, taken care of, and comforted.
“Every child has the right to a bed. Every child should be able to lay their head down on their very own pillow at the end of the day and not have to worry about waking up cold in the middle of the night or being too tired at school the next day.
Craig continued: “It’s so easy to take these basic needs for granted, but the reality is that there are thousands of children across Wake County who will not have a bed to sleep in tonight, which means that we still have a lot of work to do.”
To learn more or support us in our mission to ensure that every child in Wake County has their own bed to sleep in, please click here.
This guest blog was written by The Green Chair Project volunteer Mary-Catherine Freeman. A professional photographer, she donated her services to take photos of the Savor Sweeter Dreams event.