Chicago has dozens of big fancy hotels. And every big fancy hotel has a big fancy ballroom, if not two or three. Many of those big fancy ballrooms on any given night hold big fancy charity dinners with crowded bars and framed Blackhawk memorabilia and baskets of wine laid out on endless silent auction tables.
As the good hearted souls attending these dinners shout small talk at each other and angle themselves to strip chunks of prime rib off passing trays and in general passionately wish they were home watching "The Big Bang Theory," a thought forms: "Why don't we just give money to the charity and skip the dinner?"
Good news: next year is here, and has been for 20 years.
"It goes back to the 1990s," said Marc J. Swatez, executive director of the The Ark, which holds an annual "dinner-less dinner" to raise money for its programming. "We had a development director who saw an article about a New York charity that did it. In 1998 we did our first dinner-less fundraiser raiser and sent out a package of powdered soup, asking people to enjoy a cup of hot soup in your own home and help us. It was successful."
This year, they sent a block of chocolate.
"We've send out soup and tea, cookies and popcorn, luggage tags, keychains," said Swatez. "It gets people's attention. In 2008 we did our first chocolate. It's been very successful."
Given the economics, it's surprising more charities don't do it, though Swatez noted there is a social, team-building aspect to actual dinners.
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