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‘Cuisine for a Cause’ nets $125,500 for Rebuilding Together Fox Valley

Funds help nonprofit tackle backlog of projects for lower income elderly, veterans or disabled

March 4, 2014

The overwhelming success of the second annual ‘Cuisine for a Cause Celebrity Cook-Off’ will help Rebuilding Together Fox Valley tackle more than half of its backlog of 70 repair or rehabilitation projects to help lower income elderly, veterans and disabled stay independent and in their homes.

“The donations and participation in Cuisine for a Cause surpassed even our wildest dreams,” said Mary Beth Leopold, RTFV executive director. “Some people only need some grab bars installed for safety reasons for $100 while others need a bathroom redone with showers and toilets that are handicap accessible for $8,000 or more.”

Community First Credit Union was the title sponsor of the four-course food competition on Feb. 7 involving local chefs and celebrities that raised a record $125,500 after expenses for RTFV, which assists low- to moderate-income homeowners in the Fox Valley area. The inaugural Cuisine for a Cause in 2013 raised a net $65,000.

CFCU senior executive Amanda Secor and her chef partners Kari Mueller and Larry DeFranza from Carmella’s Italian Bistro displayed their culinary skills and captured the Judge’s Choice Award for Best Dessert at the event held at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. “There was a lot of work and attention that went into our dessert,” Secor said. “Kari and Larry of Carmella’s imagined a delicious combination with amazing flavor that also looked like an Italian gondola with the pastry. They are real pros and it was fun to be part of their team for a day.”

Other chef/celebrity teams were: Katsu Ya/Salon CTI, Zuppa’s/Heid Music, Houdini’s/Bassett Mechanical, Happy Bellies/, FVTC/Miron, KangaRoost/Bongers Family & Friends and Larry London/ThedaCare.

Leopold said new assistance requests come in each week to RTFV, which organizes volunteers to work alongside skilled tradespeople who donate their time and talents to remove barriers that restrict mobility and accessibility for homeowners who lack the resources to make needed repairs or home modifications. “We know this back log will never go away, but with these types of donations our goal is to keep this list under 25 home owners on a yearly basis,” she said.

CFCU employees helped raise a total of $3,227 with a Chili Day, Casual Day, Day Off raffle and the sale of Carmella’s cupcakes. Overall, including donations made online and during the event, Community First raised nearly $8,500. “We are thrilled with the money we raised, and I can’t thank the CFCU team enough for their support in helping us to raise more than $8,000,” Secor said.

Plans are in the works for RTFV’s 2014 Spring Project Day on April 26 where local businesses sponsor a project and provide volunteers as part of the effort to revitalize neighborhoods and communities. On Spring Project Day 2013, over 1,000 volunteers from two dozen sponsoring businesses, including Community First, and two major sponsors (Thrivent Financial and J.J. Keller Foundation) repaired and rehabilitated 24 homes throughout the Fox Cities.

For more information on RTFV or to volunteer, go to or call 920-730-2156.