|Written by Linda Kinyon|
Cancer and other serious illnesses can cause a severe financial drain on any family. Here is a way to throw a benefit dinner to help defray some of the costs of a medical emergency for a needy family.
A benefit dinner is a great way to help a family in a medical emergency. You'll need to locate a facility to have the dinner at. A local community center, civic center or some such facility will often work out perfectly. Call several and see if you can get them to donate an evening for the dinner with a damage deposit that will be refundable if the facility is left in the same condition it is found in (or better). If you know someone who works there all the better. Often facilities will give employee discounts and such so take advantage of any discounts you're able to procure.
Talk with the family and find a date that works for them and the facility. Find out exactly what the family's needs are and be prepared to tell people should they inquire. If the family is in the midst of medical procedures they may not be able to actually make the dinner but it is still important to keep them informed. Perhaps they need help with bills or transportation, whatever the need, make it your goal to convey it to the guests at the benefit.
Arrange for the food donations by various churches and other community groups as well as individuals who might be willing to donate.Ā A spaghetti dinner, taco feed, lasagna dinner or such is often very easy to prepare and distribute to guests. Whatever your choice, keep it simple and make sure you have plenty of helpers.
Plan for several people to be able to help at the dinner and help in advertising. Find out if your local paper will run a free ad for the dinner. Print out flyer's and have some energetic youth put them up at businesses (make sure to ask owners first) and library bulletin boards etc. Share enough information on the flyer's and in the ad that people want to help without compromising too much personal information about the family.
Call churches and ask if they could announce the dinner during their announcement time on the Sunday morning prior to the dinner. Most benefit dinners charge a minimum cost of between $5 and $15 per person for the dinner with a cap at no more than $35 to $40 for an entire family of say 4 people or more. Your pricing will depend on the menu being served and the area that you live in. Make sure you do plenty of advertising to bring people in and consider a night of the week that normally doesn't have much going on in your community for the event date.
Set up at least 2 hours prior to the event on the chosen date. Set out a poster or pictures of the family near the entrance and have someone prepared to answer questions regarding the family's needs. You may even choose to have a guest book for visitors to sign and note well wishes.
If any family members are able to attend the dinner place them at a specific table and have someone assisting in controlling the flow of traffic so that they do not become worn out. Offer lots of support and help and comfort to the family. This is another area where a guest book for well wishes could be placed. Be gentle on the family though and don't allow anyone to stay too long and wear them out. Fighting a medical emergency is very tiring and mentally fatiguing.
Keep menu's simple and easy (a typical menu is spaghetti, french bread and a salad and perhaps pudding or soft serve ice cream for a treat after dinner.
Involve as many people as you can in the planning and the event itself. Many hands make light work.
Have a poster or some pictures of the family with a brief explanation of the hardship near the entry to the benefit dinner
Often church youth groups or scouting groups are more than willing to donate their time and help at such events.
Consider setting up a website and/or a bank account to help the family and increase donations.
Consider having a few teens holding posters outside of the dinner to bring in more customers.
Make sure to plan a clean up crew for cleaning your facility so that you can get your deposit back.
Do not give out contact information regarding the family but rather have people sign a guest book or some such item and indicate if they are interested in helping in some small way. Guests can leave their name, phone number and ways they can help much easier this way! If the family wishes for their help then they can contact the guest.