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Two upcoming events make Delaware great, each in its own way

December 5, 2016

Thanksgiving got me thinking about eating. I know, surprise, surprise. Anyway, last week I happened to hear two high-visibility Delawareans talking on the radio about two different events centered on eating. Both of these guys impressed me with their enthusiasm for their respective causes.

It’s hard to walk the south end of the Rehoboth Boardwalk and not notice Atlantic Jewelry. The bright and glittering store covers about a half-block of real estate in the Star of the Sea condo building. Owner and entrepreneur Harry Keswani was born in India and raised in London. His family barely made ends meet, and there were times when Harry wasn’t sure where his next meal was coming from.

Fast-forward to Delaware and the Harry K Foundation H4 Initiative. I was amazed at the statistics he quoted on the air about the number of Delaware kids - some of whom actually live in the Rehoboth area - who go to bed hungry. At first glance, it’s hard to tell these kids apart from their schoolmates, but nutritional staff at the elementary and high schools have an inside track. That’s where Harry K and his foundation come in, setting up food pantries in various Delaware schools where they then put together nonperishable food items and quietly insert them into a backpack that is deposited in the student’s locker. The child takes home enough food to get him or her through the evening and even the weekend. And nobody’s the wiser, as the backpack is just one more backpack in a sea of schoolyard backpacks.

The pantries are also open to these kids’ parents, who are invited to come in and take enough food and snacks to help them make it from one day to the next. So where does Harry Keswani get the money to do this? That question will be answered Saturday, Dec. 10, when the 4th Annual Harry K Christmas Ball kicks off at Rehoboth Beach Country Club. This black-tie affair is one of the highlights of the holiday season, and the attendees show up ready to bid on live and silent auction items or to be underwriters of parts of the event in addition to making donations to the foundation. The admission cost of $250 might seem pricy until you stand back and look at all it does to make sure our local kids don’t go to bed hungry, while avoiding the stigma of receiving handouts. Nobody in the foundation gets paid, so 100 percent of the proceeds goes to feeding the kids. The event is so popular that I suspect it will be sold out by the time you read this, but you might want to brush off your tux or ball gown and mark your calendar for next year.

At 4 p.m. this coming Wednesday, Dec. 7, another event will take place that is specifically designed to raise national awareness of Delaware’s outstanding restaurants and hospitality facilities. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce are the prime movers behind the annual Taste of Delaware celebration held in the Russell Senate office building – on Delaware Avenue, yet - directly across the street from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. It was amusing to hear Sen. Coons describe how it all started: When he was first elected to office, he celebrated his swearing-in with a little party for his office hallway neighbors. They cleared off his conference table and treated Republicans and Democrats alike to some very Delawarean Grotto Pizza and subs from Capriotti’s.

The celebratory treat was so well received that the next year it had to be held in a larger room. When word of the free Delaware vittles spread even more, it was finally moved to the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell building. And this year there’s a whole lot more than just Grotto pies and Capriotti’s sandwiches: Delaware’s food-related participants include Matt’s Fish Camp, the Atlantic Sands Hotel, the Hyatt Place in Dewey Beach, Dogfish Head, Mispillion River Brewing Co. and Painted Stave Distilling. Upstate contributors include Wildwich, Delcastle Tech’s and DelTech’s Culinary Programs, Johnnie’s Dog House, Twin Lakes Brewing ... the list goes on and on and even includes freshly made doggie treats from Waggies by Maggie & Friends.

The event is free, however you must either call the senator’s office (302-573-6345) and let them know you’re coming, or go to www.dscc.com/events/eventdetail.aspx?EventID=1874 to register. It’s great to see so many Delaware businesses teaming up to help promote our dining and tourist industry for everyone here in the state.

So next week is a big week! The Harry K Foundation Christmas Ball will help stock school pantries that quietly help kids make it from one day to the next, and Sen. Coons’ Taste of Delaware brings lawmakers and representatives from every state a little closer to the business of eating right here in the First State.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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