Winemakers’ Cookoff set for August 11
The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders. In service to others, Paso Robles is home to two of the seven clubs in the North SLO County, and through a variety of fundraisers, they produce a bounty of goodwill for the local community.
The Paso Robles Rotary Club meets weekly at noon on Thursdays at Paso Robles Inn for lunch and business. With two big annual fundraisers and the management of a scholarship fund, the club produces more than $100,000 in local support.
Club president Gail Tannehill began her term in July, and intends on developing the club’s international participation, but knows how important it is for the club to focus on our local community.
“We do a lot in our community, and in the world,” Tannehill said. “We are going to be highlighting some international activity, but our club is very concerned about supporting our local community.”
One of the ways the club supports local community is through the annual golf tournament, which was renamed the “Tee It Up For OUR Kids” golf tournament with a dedication to deliver all proceeds to programs and organizations that serve our local Paso Robles youth.
“We decided to support non-profit organizations that work with the children of Paso Robles,” tournament organizer Rick Goree said. “We invited the organizations to attend a Rotary lunch as our guest and we presented the big check to them. It is a good opportunity to let our sponsors and community know where the money is going.”
From the 2017 proceeds, $5,000 was donated to each of the Boy Scouts, Children’s Museum, CASA, Boys and Girls Club, Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, SKILLS USA; $2,500 donated to Morning Star Youth Ranch and Youth Works; and $1,000 donated to Paso Robles Youth Soccer, North County Dance and El Chorro.
In March, the annual golf tournament raised about $35,000 to be distributed among local charities or causes. The list of beneficiaries is currently under review, with a number of past recipients — such as the local Boy Scouts troop, North San Luis Obispo County Boys & Girls Club and SkillsUSA — in the running for a contribution.
In July, $2,500 of that sum was donated to the “Made in the Shade” fundraiser for the construction of shade over the playground of Paso Robles’ Uptown Family Park. The park playground provides a great local resource, but without any large trees or other shade structures it is often too hot to use. Rotary’s mission gives local businesspersons a means to impact the local and international community with large donations and service opportunities such as this.
Following the success of the golf tournament, the Rotary Club of Paso Robles prepared for the distribution of more than $75,000 in local scholarships to graduating Paso Robles High School students in June. The scholarships ranged from $1,000 to $5,000, and assisted 22 PRHS seniors’ trips into higher education.
A majority of the money raised for those annual scholarships comes from the Rotary Winemakers’ Cookoff. The event was founded by Gary Eberle when he was the Rotary president in 1998. Before the Cookoff, the club donated between $1,000-3,000.
“It was an embarrassingly low amount for such a strong Rotary club,” Eberle said.
Twenty years later, and that has dramatically changed. Proceeds from the cookoff are paired with the interest from a foundation fund — jointly named after Harlow Ford and Callum Black — managed by the Paso Robles Rotary.
The general Paso Robles public can be a part of the scholarship fundraising effort by enjoying an August evening at the 20th annual Winemakers’ Cookoff, as the community gathers to wine and dine with the best of what Paso Robles has to offer.
“Just come down,” Eberle said “You will have all the food you can possibly eat. Phyllis Madonna still gives us those sheet cakes for desert — great desserts. You could not eat all the food presented — and all the wine and music.”
Wine country has made room for some world-famous beer producers, and the cookoff has made room as well.
“We have some breweries involved now, so if you don’t like wine with your ribs, you can have a beer,” Eberle said.
At the end of the day, bellies are full, and glasses are empty, with the profits of the event making their way to the scholarship counts of the next generation of PRHS graduates.
“The money stays in Paso Robles,” Eberle said. “It is truly a community event.”
Between the cookoff and the scholarship fund, the Paso Robles Rotary continues to build a head of steam in serving local students’ transition from high school to college, and Eberle set his sights on another threshold.
“Three years from now, we will be doing $100,000 per year in scholarships at the high school,” Eberle predicted.
Looking forward to a great event, Rotary sends out an invitation to those looking for a good time and a good cause.
“Each year it is a little bigger, and better run,” Eberle said. “The wineries are always coming up with new foods, and bribes for the judges.”
The 2018 lineup of cookoff judges will be Robert Whitley, Bridget Binns, Mira Honeycutt, Mike Cervin, and William Carter.
Throwing events and raising money is only part of what it means to be a Rotarian, and Tannehill invited anyone interested in getting more involved in the community to reach out.
“We want to encourage new members,” Tannehill said. “If you are at all interested in Rotary, go to our website and contact any of our members.”