IMPERIAL — Guests were in high spirits as they raised funds to benefit foster care children Thursday evening during the Imperial County Association of Realtors’ first annual Food and Wine Tasting Festival at Cheval Farms in Imperial.
To gain entrance to the wine tasting area on the lawn, attendees passed through a garden gazebo decorated with a vineyard theme and lit with chandelier purple lights. Guests then proceeded to several tables where hors d’oeuvres were served. Others went straight to the wine vendors to try a large selection of wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a locally produced wine made from honey in Imperial County — the Private Reserve Saccharo by Pearson Brothers that is based in Imperial.
In the middle of the lawn garden was a large canopy tent where the program took place. Participants sat on sofa seats and armchairs near decorative tables brightened with lamp centerpieces. Meanwhile, wines bottles, gift cards and gift baskets were displayed on three dinner tables waiting to be claimed by raffle ticket drawing winners. Live music echoed in the garden throughout the evening.
“It’s a tremendous turnout. A great support,” said James Garcia, president of the Imperial County Association of Realtors. Garcia is a broker and owner of Capital Real Estate in Imperial.
“What made this happen was the coming together of our association along with our affiliate associations such as insurance companies, inspection companies, appraisal companies, all of the other affiliates that came along with us to support our events and causes,” Garcia said.
In previous years, ICAOR sponsored fundraising events such as bowling and corn hole tournaments. However, this year the realtors decided on something more formal — the food and wine tasting event.
According to Garcia, the association strives to host something the community would enjoy, have lots of fun, and then donates all the proceeds to a great cause. The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), was selected to be the recipient of the evening’s fundraising event, he said. The total amount raised was not available at press time.
As for the the contribution to CASA, according to Ruben Gonzalez, CEO of Imperial County Association of Realtors, “We see it as a benefit that we’re able to give back to the community from the realtors, from our affiliates, and our sponsors.” The group represents more than 230 realtor members in the association.
Alex Cardenas, mayor of El Centro, is also the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). He expressed his gratitude for CASA being the recipient for the evening’s fundraising event by presenting organizers with a framed signature photo of foster children.
“We have over 400 kids in foster care. It is very challenging to grow up in the foster care system,” Cardenas said.
One of the things CASA is accomplishing, Cardenas said, is breaking the pipe line from foster care to prison. For every child who is emancipated from foster care, there is a two-thirds chance that child will end up in prison, according to Cardenas.
“And what we are doing with this money that we fundraise tonight, not a dime in this money goes into our operations. All of this money goes into our Sunshine Account, and that Sunshine Account is used for recreational activities. I want to thank everybody for contributing to that Sunshine Account, because this goes to direct services for our children in foster care. So, thank you so much,” Cardenas said.