By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — The sixth annual Amy Center Celebrity Waiter Dinner will take place this Saturday and organizers are hoping to raise at least $10,000 from the event.
Between 185 and 200 people are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be held at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon. The cash bar opens at 5:15 p.m. and the dinner will begin at 6 p.m.
The event serves as the major annual fundraiser for the Amy Center, a children’s advocacy organization serving a seven-county region in South Central Illinois.
“It’s a fun, unique way (to raise money),” said Ladonna Richards, executive director of the Amy Center. “It’s a good way to raise awareness.”
The dinner features local “celebrities” who sell tickets to the event and then serve their ticket holders during the ceremony. The waiter with the most tips at the end of the evening wins a prize.
A theme is selected for each table at the dinner. Past themes have included law enforcement, Willy Wonka, the 1950s, basketball and more.
Also, throughout the evening, the waiters and their ticket holders participate in various fun activities designed to raise additional money, Richards said.
Each year’s fundraiser also includes an auction. More than 30 donated items will be available this time around, including two children’s bicycles, a bar stool, a Bluetooth device, Valentine’s Day prizes and more.
In addition, musical entertainment will be provided by the a capella group The Blend, which performs ‘50s and ‘60s doo-wop music.
The Amy Center receives most of its operational funding from grants, Richards said. However, these funds are designated for a specific purpose and cannot be used for other expenses.
Money generated by the annual dinner can help pay for “extra things,” such as clearing the parking lots of snow, mowing the yard, cleaning the carpets and painting the walls, Richards said.
“The rest of it is all designated money,” Richards said. “This is our only one we have any leeway at all to spend it in other ways.”
This year’s celebrity waiters and table sponsors include State Beauty Supply, John Kemp, Mark Simmons, Rend Lake College, TJ and Sara Parrish, Doug Hoffman, Jim and Rose McVey, Lacey Copple, Julie Quinn, Magnum Steel, Tony Mayville, Dr. Asbery, Travis Allen, DCFS, Carolyn McMurphy, Ford Square of Mt. Vernon, and Black, Hedin, Ballard, McDonald.
The Amy Center, located in Mt. Vernon, was founded in 1990 by Dennis and Dr. Esther Schulz after their daughter, Amy, was assaulted and murdered.
The organization seeks to provide a “safe place for children who are victims of sexual or severe physical abuse,” states the center’s website.
One of the center’s primary functions is to educate students and school staff in the region about how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
However, the organization also lends support to abuse victims as their cases go through the court system, as well as providing other support services.
The Amy Center serves the counties of Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Wayne, Marion, Clinton and Clay.
Tickets for the Celebrity Waiter Dinner are $35 each. For more information, contact the center at 244-2100.