Fundraising that tastes great


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The smell of chicken Creole and sounds of Haitian music greeted people of all ages and backgrounds as they came to enjoy a slice of Haitian culture on Thursday afternoon in the IMU Main Lounge.

And best of all, the 625 attendees at the special Haitian-theme Lunch with the Chefs donated roughly $4,000 toward disaster relief for the country, where a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck on Jan. 12.
Fabienne Bertrand, a graduate student who helped plan the lunch, is a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which suffered particularly catastrophic damage in the temblor.

“My life is in Haiti,” said Bertrand, who plans to return home after completing her degree. “[My cousin] told me it will not look nice when I come back. It will be painful because it’s tough to see.”

Lucy Joseph, a UI graduate student and a first generation Haitian American, enlisted three other students, including Bertrand, to help arrange the fundraiser .

Because the university holds a Lunch with the Chefs with a different cultural theme around once a month, Joseph asked UI officials if they would allow the next lunch to be a fundraiser with a Haitian focus.

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“It’s pretty much just fallen into place,” said Joseph, who worked with Nicole Nisly, the UI interim chief diversity officer, and Richard Geer, general manager of IMU Retail Dining Services, to plan the event. “I’m just really glad how the university and the community is responding to everything, because it’s been tough the past couple of days.”

The event, which had an all-Haitian menu, charged $10 for tickets, with $6 of each ticket going directly to the Haiti relief fund of American Red Cross’ Grant Wood Area Chapter.

Curran Johnson, an official with AmeriCorps Vista for the American Red Cross, said many people donated as much as $20 or $30.

“At this point, every little bit counts, and we all need to do our part,” said Ean Mills, who attended the IMU lunch with friends. “There are a lot of people suffering.”

And the Haiti fundraising efforts on Thursday were campuswide. The UI College of Law hosted its own lunch as well in the Boyd Law Building.

TJ Patton, a co-president of the Student Bar Association and fundraiser planner, said it raised around $1,430 for the American Red Cross International Response Fund. The lunch was one part of a monthlong fundraising effort by faculty, staff, and students in the law school, who have raised roughly $3,520 since Jan. 18.

The Haitian students on campus said they wanted to create an event that not only raised funds but also celebrated Haiti.

“The Haitian culture is just beautiful,” said Natasha Altema, a graduate student whose parents were born in Haiti.

“It has great food, great music. The Haitian people, their spirits are so strong, and it permeates through every party of the culture,” she said. “It’s just really great to be able to witness everybody across the UI community from every background sharing in this moment.”

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