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United Way of Thurston County raises record funds for our community during 5th annual Straight from the Heart winemaker’s dinner

United Way of Thurston County in partnership with Lucky Eagle Casino celebrated its 5th annual Straight from the Heart winemaker’s dinner on January 25th grossing $140K to benefit our community.

In Thurston County, 1,809 adults and children are homeless and 1 in 5 homebound seniors do not receive adequate nutritional meals. In addition, 1 in 4 third graders are reading below grade level. With the help of generous donors and United Way supporters, this year’s fundraiser more than doubled the amount from previous years allowing an even greater impact in the community. Funds raised will help United Way address our community’s most critical issues surrounding education, income, and health.

For the first time ever, Straight from the Heart tickets were sold out weeks in advance. Over 340 guests reserved seats and purchased tickets early. The reputation and buzz about the program stirred enthusiasm and excitement causing the event to become quite the “must-attend” dinner and fundraiser for United Way.

Straight from the Heart added a unique experience compared to previous years. The program included an evening of heritage hand crafted foods prepared by Lucky Eagle’s culinary team led by Executive Chef Kevin Bray, and wine pairings from special guest Michael Madrigale, who was voted 2012 Sommelier of the Year by Food and Wine and Wine Enthusiast magazines. Lucky Eagle also recruited Food and Beverage Expert Shawn Ellis who added a new twist to the event with artisan food and wine sourced locally in the Northwest.

According to United Way Board Member and Event Committee Chair, Pablo Bellon, “Everything from the phenomenal dining experience to the sommelier’s discussion of wines was a step up.” He adds that United Way and Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel aimed to exceed guests’ expectations by adding the extra “wow” factor this year.

Guests had an opportunity to bid on a wide variety of silent and live auctions ranging from Mexico excursions to football signed by NFL Super Bowl champion, Russell Wilson. One lucky winner also walked away with a beautiful white gold bracelet donated by Panowicz Jewelers.

“Straight from the Heart was an example of a team of dedicated folks coming together and building on past Straights to upend all levels of food and beverage quality, service performance, auction items, and sponsor procurement,” said United Way of Thurston County Executive Director, Paul Knox. “This was an amazing event and I’m grateful to be a part of this community.”