‘Warm Up (and eat up) the night’

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‘Warm Up (and eat up) the night’

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Emma Waldman, Collegian Staff

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Pig Roast. Raw Bar. Sake and sushi plus caviar. Homemade, local legendary peanut brittle. All will be available and more at the “Warm Up the Night” fundraiser on Oct. 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., hosted by the Family Outreach of Amherst, a branch of the Center for Human Development. CHD is the largest non-profit organization servicing western Massachusetts and Connecticut for providing help with social services, academics, food insecurity, mental health and other support.

Every year, the Amherst FOA hosts two evening extravaganzas to raise funds for their operations. “Light Up the Night” takes place in the summer while in the winter “Warm Up the Night” pays homage to the need that arises for many to find warmth as the colder season hits. The foodie wonderland gives guests the chance to help share the warmth with families who are less fortunate in this time.

The party brings together tastes and nibbles from local restaurants and purveyors of food and drinks under a brilliantly lit tent behind the Lord Jeffery Inn. The crew that plans one of the title bashes of the winter in the Pioneer Valley is small but mighty.

Slightly hidden in a basement level office adjacent to Bruno’s Pizza and a lesser known pilates studio lies the local CHD offices, which acts as a beacon of support despite how it appears from the outside. Representing the largest social service organization around with a constant beam and a calming energy is Program Director Laura Reichsman, who heads all the local duties of the CHD.

Laura oversees both major branches, FOA and the community meal program, Not Bread Alone. The dedicated staff of four, including a dog that wags his tail when welcoming guests to the office, feels like a family who support one another while supporting the families of our town.

Serving with the CHD branch for longer than many University of Massachusetts students have been alive, Reichsman has dedicated the past two decades working in this community and lifting up families who need support. Far too many social service organizations are constrained by a ceiling of how long they can offer help for any given case. The FOA prides itself on being a presence for all members of a family for as long as they are needed, in the style of Nanny McPhee with a little bit more leeway.

There are no rules for the type of case the team will take on. Many clients come for help for a broad spectrum of needs, from housing insecurity to concerns about their child’s academic success. Acting as a safety net for low-income families for the area, FOA staff can behave as a consultant to help with life skills, access to outside services, crisis intervention and advocacy or get involved to whatever degree wanted by the family. Sometimes foreign language translation is a prominent service, but often, Reischman shared, translation for the foreign legal or academic language can be equally relevant.

UMass graduate student, Nikolas Krauchi, described that it’s not uncommon for a family to come to FOA when facing major struggles and then continue to return for help or even just to visit. Many families seek major help from the FOA in their child’s infancy and continue to see them for long term assistance, even when the kid begins the grueling year of college applications. All members of a family can pursue the personalized assistance that they need, independent of the rest of their family members. The close-knit staff often spends their days on service excursions, so it’s a rare delight to see all of them together.

Tickets to the “Warm Up the Night” fundraiser are $50, and the wonderful team will be in attendance. The night will allow a little bit of overindulging that can be excusable for a good cause. Your admission covers all food and beverages can be purchased. The night may be your only chance to have Provisions’ sake paired with IYA sushi in the same evening as our town’s peanut brittle legend. There will also be home prepared creations — don’t miss what Laura will bring -— Osteria Vespa, Bistro 63 and many more delights.

With many new local fooderies getting involved, this falls’ edition of the fundraiser should not be missed. Your attendance will help local families get access to housing support, immigration services and help for struggling families. Visit chd.org/familyoutreach for more information and to buy tickets or donate.

Emma Waldman can be reached at [email protected]