Charity wine festival for Community Counseling Center expected to be bigger than ever

Monday, April 20, 2009

The eighth annual Community Benefit Wine Festival on Friday will be bigger than ever, according to organizers. Thirteen wineries from Missouri wine country will set up tables for people to sample wine, a Motown band will play through the night and art will be on display for purchase -- all to fund the Community Counseling Center, a not-for-profit center for mental health care.

The previous seven years, the festival has been held at Deerfield Lodge. The Community Counseling Center Foundation moved the event to accommodate a growing crowd and help solve parking issues.

"We had to rent a tent in addition to the hall [at the Deerfield Lodge]," said Larry Essner, executive director for the foundation. "It just wasn't big enough."

He said the wine festival has grown steadily since it was started. The benefit has become the foundation's second-largest fundraiser, next to February's annual Doctors-Lawyers Basketball Showdown.

"It's been getting larger every year and so we got the opportunity to get the Bavarian Halle so we wanted to do that," Essner said.

With the increase in space, they were able to invite 13 wineries from Southeast Missouri, the most the festival has ever had.

"It's a fun evening," Essner said. "Everyone always looks forward to it."

Aside from the wine, the event has hors d'oeuvres donated from 30 restaurants, artwork by the center's clients for sale and restaurant gift certificates to raffle off through the night. Pat Schwent and her Motown band will play most of the evening.

Winery employees work the tasting tables, and counseling center employees, board members and volunteers do the rest.

Donna Jenkins, the supervisor for outpatient and crisis at the center, will be volunteering for the first time this year. She will do "whatever they tell me to do, basically," she said.

"I'm kind of excited," she said. Jenkins worked in a group home before coming to her current position.

She said the center helps people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression or people who endure a crisis like a death in the family. The center provides marriage, family and individual counseling and helps children with ADHD or behavioral disorders.

"We also work with the schools along with the parents to give them support and help when they have children who have certain needs," Jenkins said.

She said the counseling center employs 250 people from doctors to therapists to caseworkers and administration.

"I think a lot of times when people come in for our services, they are surprised because they didn't think that we would be able to serve all those other needs," she said.

The wine benefit helps improve the counseling center facilities, equipment and programs at their sites in Cape Girardeau, Perry County, Ste. Genevieve, Mo., and Fredericktown, Mo. Through those locations, the center serves Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Madison, Ste. Genevieve and Perry counties.


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What: 8th Annual Community Benefit Wine Festival

Where: Bavarian Halle, Fruitland

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday

Other: Tickets are $30 in advance; $35 at the door. But tickets at Community Counseling Center locations, US Bank and Capaha Bank in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Perryville, or by calling 339-6109.

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