Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Aftertaste...

Hey All,

I know it's been awhile but things have been CRAZY here. For those of you who don't know, the Tibetan Aid Project's major benefit dinner and auction was this past Friday so it's been crunch-time in the office for the past couple of weeks. So where to begin...

Work Updates-
We are cleaning up after the most amazing fundraising event I've ever attended. TAP has two fundraising dinners a year and this one, Taste and Tribute San Francisco, went off without a hitch. On Thursday we ran around the office like chickens with our heads cut off preparing and doing inventory on EVERYTHING we were taking down to the ribbons and tape needed for set-up. After a few hectic hours we got all the beautifully labeled and color coded boxes loaded into our cute little UHAUL truck and headed to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. The place is a maze of hallways and elevators. It was quite the adventure getting everything unloaded and up to the Ballroom staging area. We had about 8 flatbed dolleys full of stuff that we navigated to the 2nd floor, through the kitchen (because someone designed the building so that the loading dock elevator takes you directly to the kitchen), around the army of cooks giving us dirty looks, and into the staging room. After unloading we headed back to the Institute for an early bedtime.
Friday Morning at 8:30 AM the adventure began! We all crowded into two cars with our Dillards garment bags and boxes of tasty treats and headed over the Bay Bridge during rush hour and into the city. On arrival the insanity began and I made my way to the ballroom to pin embroidered runners and chevrons to the 11 chef stations. This invloved some epic pinning magic and the collection of some lovely war wounds. There were also hundreds of votive candles to unload and distribute between the tables, endless flowers to disperse (one petal at a time) along each dinning table, and some gifts, dinner programs and placecards to set delicately at all 220 seats. At some point during the afternoon, after downing a couple spare truffles and some yummy breakfast cheeses, I set about packaging the chef gifts for distribution. 24 chefs with 4 items each to be bagged and tagged for placement was a bit tedious but surprisingly cathartic after the madness of decor. Our event planners Jessika and Jill are total rockstars and took an instant liking to me for some reason. It may have had something to do with my sugar and caffeine-inspired energy and wild impromptu performances throughout the day. I think I've been socially deprived for weeks so the chance for interaction and the energy of the event was the biggest high ever! According to Jessika, I would make quite the event manager so who knows, maybe I've found my calling :)
I don't want to bore you with every tedious detail but the event came together beautifully. The auction items were displayed, the ballroom looked breathtaking and the gifts (my area of focus) blended in beautifully with the 5 wine glasses, 4 spoons, three forks, two knives and one plate that they befriended while waiting for guests to arrive. As evening approached the chefs begin to arrive in their shiny sportscars with their army of assistants and sui chefs. To give you a picture, there were eleven tables each with two chefs at a station nearby. Every chef had at least one assistant and the pair of chefs together prepared a 4-course meal for their table of 20 guests, complete with wine pairings. It's quite the show. In the meantime, several speakers explained the heart of our organization's mission. As wine disappeared and heart strings were plucked the guests prepared to open their wallets and start bidding on our epic live auction. At this point in the evening, I got to enter the ballroom (all gussied up) and run the Live Auction Powerpoint I'd been working on for weeks. As the bidding started I got so excited I was standing/kneeling on my chair and helping the auctioneer with my own suggested bidding increases. When one item broke the $2000 mark my heart started to race and when we began pulling in numbers in the $5000 and $10000 area I started to tear up. The energy and generosity of this magical scene we'd been working on for months was finally upon me and I was so moved it took my breath away. What an event. The people were beautiful. The sights, smells and sounds of the room completely transcended any previous experience I've come across in this wild West Coast adventure. I'm so ready for the next one! If only I could capture that energy in a bottle and infuse every day with it, now that would be powerful.
In the end we raised upwards of $150,000 all of which will go directly to our book preservation and distribution project. Ticket sales covered all expenses and the gravy of our auctions, especially during this rough economic period, was really surprising. Many non-profits in the region are reporting %50 drops in earnings but we experienced a measly %5 decrease and cultivated some new connections that will continue to carry our mission forward. As for personal connections, I earned the friendship and respect of both our event manager and her boss who suggested that I speak with them about a possible position in Event Management! I also came across some old friends from our donor retreat at Ratna Ling (our Sonoma County rural retreat center) and felt some love. It's official, I'm a people person and I'm ready for a SOCIAL adventure. We were at the Four Seasons until 12:30 AM but we couldn't have been happier. When I said that the event went off without a hitch I meant it. Our staff of 7 women, 5 of who are under 25 and recent college grads, pulled off this huge event seamlessly. Our event planner was in tears when she complimented us on this impressive feat. In other words, we rocked it! And as the guests stumbled blinking into the lobby and things came to a close they were all smiles and tipsy praises. I had the pleasure of handing them some last minute goodies and I got some serious love. We have the best supporters in the world!
As I fell into bed around 2AM I reveled, briefly, in the power of connection through passion for change. Even with all the hardships our country's been facing economically, Taste & Tribute was a sold out event that earned hundreds of thousands for strangers. I'm ready to go at it again!

I'll post some personal updates next time, including the details of my next adventure (Bike and Build NUS 2009!!!) and all that's been happening with the family and friends while I've been away :) But for now, I hope that this little Aftertaste gives you a colorful picture of my work here.

Huge hugs and love to all of you for understanding the insanity that is my life here in Berkeley and I will post pictures as soon as our photographers get back to me.


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