Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decade of help through 'Feed the Need' Orlando

     The 10th annual “Feed the Need” charity auction in Orlando coincided with the 40th anniversary of its founding group, the Christian Service Center, Central Florida's oldest non-profit social services agency. The CSC works to prevent homelessness, combat poverty and help others in need.

     “We’re trying to stand as a lighthouse, to provide assistance to those who need help in our community,” said Orlando City Commissioner, Robert F. Stuart, who also servers as executive director for the CSC.

     The auction event was divided into two parts, with a silent auction on several items featured in the center of the venue and a live auction hosted by Barbara and Wade West. Guests paid $50 per ticket to bid on items ranging from passes to the Orange Bowl in January, an outdoor billboard advertisement, vacations to Ireland and St. Lucia and more.

     “When you have a wonderful organization like the Christian Service Center it's no wonder that you can fill a room with very happy supporters,” said Barbara West. “They care about the work the organization is doing, and they want to be here to help.” West was an anchor-reporter at WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando and left last December after 24 years in the broadcasting industry.

     Influential members of the business community were also in attendance at this charity event. “There’s never been a time when hunger is such a big problem in our community,” said Robert Brown, President and CEO at the Heart of Florida United Way. “This is about people coming together to help solve the economic crises that we all face in this country.”

     The over-all approach of this charity is to start with the basics like a free hot meal to those who need it. Like the non-profit Daily Bread program, that have served nearly three and a half million meals in Orlando since its inception, and typically give out an average of 580 meals per day through two locations.

     A majority of the funds raised from this auction and throughout the year by various donations goes to the Family and Emergency Serviceman program, which provides emergency assistance and relief during times of economic crises to individuals and families, such as a single mother who needs help paying for medication for her sick child.

     "We absolutely love it, not only are there great items to bid on, but it all goes to help the less fortunate in our area,” said Judie Lamprey, who has attend this event for the past eight years. 

     Another guest in attendance, Cheryl Forte, said, “I think it's just wonderful, and it's something only the good people of Orlando can really do right, and they take care of each other.”

     The only way programs like this are able to succeed is with the support of the community and political leaders. Auction events like this are only the highlight to a yearly struggle of assistance and charity in troubling times. 

     Though the crises we face now will not get better over night, it will surly be worse unless we all step up and help the less fortunate in our community to rebuild America from with-in.

     For more information on “Feed the Need” and other fine programs of the Christian Service Center visit their website at, You can also offer food, service, or other donations to help local feeding centers like Daily Bread that are always at an increased need to help families in the coming holiday months. 

By James Tutten 

(Published: Oct. 5, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 6.

(All Photos by James Tutten)

Contesting bidders raise the total during the live charity auction for "Feed the Need."

Commissioner Robert F. Stuart speaking to fundraisers before the live auction.

Inside look at Valencia's ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

      A dedicated group of acting students are currently rehearsing for this year's musical production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” in the Performing Arts Center at Valencia's East Campus. This up-beat, funny, and often over-the-top musical comedy is sure to entertain and delight all who attend.

     Julia Gagne, Valencia professor and the play’s director said, “Last year we did the Rogers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel’ which is a huge show. So it's not outside the realm of my experience doing major musicals.”

     This 'forth wall breaking' production is a tribute to the roaring 20s and the beginnings of the Jazz era in music. It requires a real triple treat talent from most of the ensemble cast required to sing, dance, and act throughout the performance.

     It's set in a fantasy world in the sad but lovable mind of a man in a chair. The character has never seen the show, but when he listens to ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ in his lonely apartment, a grand musical performance breaks out. The “Man in Chair interacts with the audience as they watch, and eventually plays a role in the main performance.

     “It does exactly what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world, and it makes you feel happy,” said Robert DiGiovanni, a second year Valencia business management student, who plays the role of “Man in Chair.”

     The story focuses on a love torn, Broadway star named Janet van de Graaff. “She's choosing between fame and love,” said Jillian Gizzi, a second year Musical Theater student, who plays the lead role of Janet. “You can tell that she still loves performing, but if she gets married it's all over.”

     Other great characters are part of the total experience, like the cheerfully tipsy and life-loving “Drowsy Chaperon,” played by Evangeline Mateo, and the flamboyant Latin Lothario “Aldolpho,” played by Paul Layton. Most of the cast have several songs and dance numbers they have to perfect before the first set of performances later this month.

     Theatrical performances like this are a special experience and anything can happen. After a Summer of loud explosions and superheroes at the box office, why not take in some real fine arts and support your fellow students at this production in Valencia‘s Performing Arts Center.

     Tickets are on sale now. It is recommended to buy tickets early to ensure a seat for you and your guests. Shows begin Friday, Oct. 21 - 23, and continue Oct. 27-30. More information can be found at

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Cast member look on as Jillian Gizzi performs during a solo .

Paul Layton as 'Aldolpho' seduces the
'Drowsy Chaperone' played by Evangeline Mateo.

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