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Food Gatherers set to sizzle

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Food Gatherers set to sizzle

■ Volunteers labor to get grills in gear for annual fundraising event.




It’s an annual reunion for Jim Lee and his friends.

The Ann Arbor resident began inviting his friends to Food Gatherers' annual fund-raising event years ago, and it’s become a tradition.

This year, he bought 30 tickets as gifts, and he knows they’ll all used.

“They’ll all show. They always shows," he said. "It's my summer party. All of the arrangements are already made for me. And I just buy the tickets."

That, and spend hours volunteering to make sure that the party is a success. Lee, a Food Gatherers volunteer for the past seven years, can't help but pitch in.

‘He woke up early Saturday to help drive stakes into the earth for tents, prepare the grills, and otherwise lend a hand in the preparations for “Grillin’ 98.”

He wants the day to be a rousing success for the dozens of other people just like him, who make the grilling event their annual summer party.

Some 1,200 tickets were sold in advance for the ninth annual event, which will celebrate Food Gatherers’ 10 years of operation.

Zingerman’s Deli founded the organization to fight hunger locally by accepting and distributing food donations from local businesses.

“ ‘Grillin’ ’ makes everything else happen,” said Food Gatherers executive director Eileen Spring, referring to the annual event. “The proceeds from the grill event help fluid our food rescue services for the entire year.”

Spring estimates that Sunday’s event will raise just more than $100,000, or about 15 percent of next year’s operating expenses.


Glen Evershed, left, Ypsilanti, and George Dentel, right, Ann Arbor, help set up one the several tents to be used for Sunday's Grillin for Food Gatherers Fund Raiser Saturday morning at Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor Township.

Food Gatherers boasts a list of more than 200 regular donors. In its 10 years, it has outgrown its single shelf in the walk-in cooler at Zinger-man’s deli. It is contained today in a large warehouse, formerly a meat packing plant in Ann Arbor.

In a year, Food Gatherers and its 170 volunteers distribute 2.1 million pounds of food to 130 feeding programs throughout the county.

“There is always, every day, perfectly good food going to waste that could be re-directed to the people who need it,” Spring said.

Just like Food Gatherers, the annual grilling fund-raiser started small. In its first year, the crowd of about 60 gathered on Zingerman’s deck.

By this year, the day includes a kids’ menu and kids’ games, as well as the ArtVentures Festival Workshop.

More than a dozen of Ann Arbor’s most loved restaurants will contribute dishes for the feast, and three of Ann Arbor’s favorite musical acts - George Bedard and the Kingpins, Five Ton Creek and Lisa Hunter - will provide the music.

Julie Stephenson will spend much of this afternoon’s event networking with those families, dressed up like a carrot.

When asked why she volunteered to be one of the walking carrots, there to remind people what food gatherers is all about, the Dexter resident responded, “Why not?

“I think it will be fun to just chat it up with people. I think it will be a blast, greeting and meeting people, talking to the kids, listening to the bands,” she said. “It sounds like a

It is a blast, attests Margie Ha-gene, an Ann Arbor resident and regular volunteer for Food Gatherers. She has been at the past five events.

“It’s a really great way for the community - all elements of the community - to come together and keep in front of us what a need there is to feed the hungiy,” she said.

Grillin’ 98 begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. at 1731 Dhu Varren Road in Ann Arbor. Carpooling is recommended, as parking is limited. Tickets cost $50 per adult and $10 per child. They are still available. Call 761-2796 for information.