Seattleites Ate, Drank, and Were So Generous at United Way’s Gala

By United Way of King County, on April 24, 2024 | In Eat, Drink & Be Generous, Events, News

This blog post was written by Kayla J. Dunn, United Way of King County editorial associate.

The line to get into Fremont Studios wound out the door and into the streets on Thursday night, as about 500 guests picked up their bid cards for United Way’s Eat, Drink & Be Generous gala, which would go on to raise $426,000.

Inside, the venue felt like something for a TV game show: massive, wall-sized screens broadcast the speeches, interviews, and performances from one banquet room to the other. The energy crackled with excitement as guests—in true Seattle fashion—mingled in gowns and Blundstones alike, sampling award-winning dishes that celebrated Seattle’s vibrant food scene.

“Together for everyone,” announced United Way’s CEO & President Gordon McHenry Jr., as the event kicked off. “We are focused on meeting our neighbor’s immediate needs, and we’re advocating to transform the systems that create those needs in the first place.”

The event specifically benefitted United Way’s “Our Neighbor Fund,” an initiative to raise money to feed and house local families. The fund will provide additional resources and allow the organization to increase weekly food delivery to 5,000 families, provide free summer meals to 20,000 young people each day, and ensure that 920 families will receive the support they need to stay in their homes.

Above: Recording artist Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) performs at the event. Banner photo: Mutsuko Soma, chef-owner of Kamonegi, serves up morsels.

The familiar faces of community members who have committed to championing United Way’s mission time and time again graced the studios, but there were new faces, too.

One group of friends showed up purely for a good time—they’d never heard of United Way before.

“We heard Benjamin Gibbard was doing an acoustic set, so we bought tickets,” said attendee Elisa Seay, laughing and gesturing to her group of four friends at the table. “And we’re so glad we did!”

Seay even threw her hat in the ring for a raffle item, opting for the 18-karat gold and 24-karat diamond necklace from Ben Bridge Jewelers.

Two other items were also up for grabs: a 10-night stay at Hammock Cove in Antigua and round-trip, first-class airfare on Alaska Airlines for two.

Shrieks of excitement echoed in the red room as Crystal Brown, executive director of local nonprofit Cultivate South Park, won the 24-karat diamond necklace. Brown said that as soon as she saw the necklace, she knew it was for someone else.

“The thought behind United Way’s slogan for the gala – Be Generous – inspired me,” Brown said. “There’s a sweet woman, the grant writer for our team, who has been with us since we started and works tirelessly because she just loves people. I knew she should have it, and she cried when she saw it. She has worn it every day since the event.”

“I just want (United Way) to know, we see you,” Brown added. “Thank you for the work that you do.”

The evening’s culinary showcase – featuring six local chefs who each brought their unique flair to the table – was split between the two rooms. In the red room Kamonegi, Jerk Shack, and Ethan Stowell served up coffee salmon tartare, jerk chicken street tacos, and Dungeness crab rolls. In the gold room, Communion, Musang, and Lisa Dupar Catering served okra stuffed beignets, coconut tartlets, and sassafras duck confit. Hood Famous dished out ube cheesecake, sweet rice cake, and coco jam bread for dessert.

Melissa Miranda of MUSANG serving up a dish.

The generosity continued to flow as this year’s campaign co-chairs, Ambika Singh and Shankar Sundaram, lead a competitive, husband vs. wife version of “Raise the Paddle.”

Together, we raised more than $426,000 to support Our Neighbor Fund!

We’d be remiss not to thank everyone who made the evening a success, so thank YOU for any donation or effort you made. United Way of King County would like to especially thank Costco and Microsoft for their All-Hands sponsorship supporting this year’s event!

The evening closed out with an intimate, acoustic set from multi-platinum recording artist Benjamin Gibbard, and the crowd erupted as he finished with “I Will Follow You into the Dark.”

Eat, Drink & Be Generous was not just a night of culinary delights and entertainment; it was a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved when a community comes together with compassion, generosity, and a shared vision for a brighter future.


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