Dinners with Love celebrates 10 years

MIDDLEBURY — Dinners with Love will host its fourth annual Comfort Food for a Cause on Sunday, April 28, from 4-7 p.m., at the Middlebury Inn in Middlebury. Vermont. The evening will include live music by The Green Brothers Band, a four-course meal, and a silent auction featuring more than 30 items and experiences donated by area businesses. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Dinners with Love program, which brings meals, donated by local restaurants, to hospice patients and their families throughout the state.
This year’s event also celebrates the 10th anniversary of Dinners with Love, which was founded in 2009 by Sheri Sullivan, formerly of Brandon. As a chef and hospice volunteer, Sullivan had been donating meals to hospice patients and their families in her community. Inspired by the difference these meals made, she was moved to create a meal donation model that could be replicated in any hospice agency. She reached out to other local restaurants and chefs, and with their help and the help of friends, started Dinners with Love, which has provided more than 14,000 meals to date in seven Vermont counties.
“This is a significant milestone for our small, but mighty organization,” said Sarah Audet, Executive Director. “We are here today because of the tremendous support our work has received from the local community. This year’s Comfort Food for a Cause is as much a celebration of Dinners with Love as it is a celebration of the community that surrounds us.”
In honor of its anniversary, Dinners with Love will be giving two inaugural awards at Comfort Food for a Cause.
The Sunflower Award is presented annually to a hospice staff member who has provided outstanding care that enhances the lives of people with life-limiting illness and their families. Sunflowers are a symbol in hospice: sunflowers turn toward the light, showing strength and character during challenging times.
The recipient of the first Sunflower Award is Laura Dame, R.N., a hospice nurse at Addison County Home Health & Hospice (ACHHH). Dame’s colleague, Maureen Conrad, Director of Development at ACHHH, nominated her for the award.
“Laura is the wonderful combination of excellent technical knowledge, spot-on assessment skills, and a huge heart,” said Conrad. “Her creative solutions in the field using whatever resources and tools are available are legendary, and there is nothing she will not do to make a patient’s last days more comfortable and happy.”
The second recognition is The Jeanne Finnerty Outstanding Volunteer Award, which is presented annually to a Dinners with Love volunteer who goes the extra mile to bring food and comfort to hospice patients and their families.
It is named for Jeanne Finnerty, who received meals donated by Sullivan at the end of her life in 2009. Jeanne’s husband, Frank Finnerty of Bridport, became a founding board member and long-time volunteer of the organization. To this day, he continues to serve on the board and deliver meals to families in Addison County every week. The award is given in memory of Jeanne and in recognition of Frank’s dedicated service.
The recipients of the inaugural Jeanne Finnerty Outstanding Volunteer Award are Salissa Wahlers, Jill Abilock, and SueRae Glinka, hospice volunteers at the University of Vermont Health Network Home Health & Hospice in Colchester. They were nominated by Volunteer Services Manager Charley MacMartin.
 “Salissa, Jill, and SueRae have accomplished so much during our Dinners with Love program’s first 18 months,” said MacMartin. “Their leadership has been indispensable. There are countless moments when one of them steps beyond her weekly tasks to make the program shine.”
Highlights of the silent auction at Comfort Food for a Cause include cooking classes with Chef Robert Barral at Café Provence, day passes to the Mountain Adventure Park at Bromley Mountain, a cruise aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen on Lake Champlain, a spa treatment at Stoweflake, lift tickets and a round of golf at Stratton Mountain Resort, a tourmaline necklace by Rebecca Zelis, a cribbage board from Maple Landmark, and Vermont Soap gift boxes.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit dinnerswithlove.org or call 802-465-1027.

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