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As the 2010 holiday season goes into full swing, the Sierra 2 Center offers the Curtis Park and Sacramento community at large a truly unique way to combine its indulgence in merriment with its interest in sharing with those in need.
On Friday, December 3rd, the Sierra 2 Center for the Arts & Community presents Best Friend Friday, an ongoing social gathering at which attendees get to meet new people, enjoy terrific food and drinks, and learn something they didn’t know about their own community. This Friday attendees will get the chance to meet Harvest Sacramento, an amalgamation of area residents, non-profits, community groups and businesses who work together to gather uneaten fruit and vegetables from backyards and small orchards and donate them to people in need.
Best Friend Friday is the brainchild of Terri Shettle, Executive Director of the Sierra 2 Center and Neighborhood Association. The Sierra Center for the Arts & Community was formed in the 1970’s when hundreds of Curtis Park neighbors came together to rescue the old Sierra School from demolition. Since then, the restored Sierra 2 Center has served as a focal point for artists, teachers, students, parents, children, and seniors, who gather frequently in its dance studios, gardens, performance spaces, meeting halls and classrooms. Except on Friday nights.
“I noticed not long ago that our Center had a lot of availability on Friday nights,” said Shettle. “During the rest of the week, we’re hopping. Our Center is filled with classes, business seminars, community meetings, and lots of other activities. But on Friday nights, most of our tenants aren’t around. Especially in the Garden Room. And I thought, ‘What a shame!’ The Garden Room is such a lovely, sunny space, with views of the trees on the property and a charming courtyard attached to it. It’s a perfect place to have people get together in, when they’re done with their busy day and week!”
But rather than just do a potluck or a wine bar, Shettle decided to think just a little bit bigger. “Like attracts like,” she explains. “The Sierra 2 is a nonprofit, and being in the field, I know there are a lot of other nonprofits who would welcome a place to come and share ideas on what the community needs, and on how their organization is addressing it.”
And Shettle knows her own community. “People in Curtis Park and Sacramento in general are very giving, very concerned. They like to hear about novel ideas to make a difference in the world. And they’re very social. So why not provide them with the story, give them the opportunity to hear about these great ideas and to mingle with like-minded people? Rather than pop in a documentary or read a brochure, they can drive over to an easily accessible Center, come in and have a glass of wine and some good food, and learn about ways that others are working to improve an aspect of their own community. It’s a perfect blend of the social and altruistic.”
It’s also more than reasonably priced. For $5, attendees get a glass of wine and a hot plate of food catered by catered by Sierra 2 Center tenant, La Famiglia Catering. Raffle tickets are sold separately, and games are played during which attendees, Sierra 2 staff and nonprofit regulars get to learn about the organization in a fun way, interact with each other, and win interesting prizes. Sierra 2 Center picks up the tab for the food and drinks, and the guest non-profit takes home the raffle ticket money. And everyone eats, drinks, and talks. It’s fun, relaxing,inspiring networking.
“It’s like the definition of synergy,” quips Shettle. “The nonprofit we host at Best Friend Friday has a built-in group of friends and supporters. They come and mingle with others who are interested in knowing what’s going on and in having a good time. They make new best friends. The two groups overlap, they network, they combine, and they become stronger after the interaction.”
On December 3rd Best Friend Friday will host Harvest America, a local nonprofit that provides a unique opportunity for people to engage in direct and tangible service to their community.
Harvest Sacramento germinated from a seed planted by two area residents, Mary McGrath and Robin Aurelius, who were pained by the sight of rotting oranges piled in the streets of East Sacramento every spring. A grassroots campaign in 2009 to harvest oranges in the McKinley Park area engaged over thirty volunteers and donated about 3000 pounds of fresh citrus to the Sacramento Food Bank.
From this success it was apparent that with more organization and effective outreach, substantial contributions of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the entire year could greatly enhance the offerings of local food assistance agencies.
Harvest Sacramento is a project of Soil Born Farms, who operates two urban farms on over forty acres in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova. Soil Born Farms is a nationally recognized center for the promotion of urban agriculture, sustainable food systems and healthy food education. Along with the continued support of its original and new volunteers, Soil Born Farms has taken a lead role in tending Harvest Sacramento, as it lays all of the administrative groundwork necessary to make a difference in the lives of needy Sacramentans.
When Harvest America joins with the Sierra 2 Center for this installment of Best Friend Friday, they will be bringing their own holiday cheer and a special guest along with them. This Friday, Harvest Sacramento will be providing hors d'oeuvres made from produce donated by Soil Born Farms and persimmons gleaned from a local orchard. And all of it will be expertly prepared by Eileen Murray.
Well-known local vegetarian chef and instructor, Murray presents monthly dinners at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op under the title “Eileen’s Kitchen.” As a nationally-recognized camp cook, baker, entrepreneur and instructor, Murray has been cultivating the art of cooking organic whole food for over thirty years. She is an accomplished macrobiotic cook who trained at the Kushi Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Vega Center in Oroville, California.
Suzanne Flint of Curtis Park is excited that Eileen will be on hand, and that Best Friend Friday is hosting Harvest Sacramento. She’s one of the volunteers for the organization, and she’s been inviting everyone she knows to come to the Sierra 2 Center on December 3rd. “Harvest Sacramento” she says, “is a simple and lovely way to give back to our community.”
Begun in September, Best Friend Friday so far has hosted the Sacramento Tree Foundation and KCRA’s “Coats For Kids.” Harvest Sacramento is next, and Shettle has been in conversation with many other nonprofits. “Best Friend Friday is a social networking model,” she says. “But instead of Facebook and Twitter, where my two fiends meet your two friends via the Internet, we do it in person.”