CHOCO­LATE

builds community CCMC plans 13th fes­ti­val fundraiser

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Her Eats - By Lorien E. Dahl

Choco­late has been a cov­eted food­stuff for thou­sands of years, be­gin­ning as a ca­cao bev­er­age in Me­soamer­ica, then mak­ing its way to Europe via ex­plor­ers like Christo­pher Colum­bus dur­ing the 1500s.

For mod­ern Amer­ica, the treat has be­come a multi­bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try, and vast num­bers of ci­ti­zens con­sume an av­er­age of 11 pounds an­nu­ally.

In Hot Springs, the sweet de­light takes cen­ter stage each Fe­bru­ary, when the an­nual Choco­late Fes­ti­val is held as a fundraiser for Co­op­er­a­tive Chris­tian Min­istries & Clinic.

The host, Em­bassy Suites Hot Springs — Ho­tel & Spa and Gen­eral Man­ager Kurt Schatzl, orig­i­nated the event to ben­e­fit an area non­profit, want­ing to raise funds for a free clinic.

CCMC Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Lynn Blanken­ship said the fes­ti­val pro­vides some 10 per­cent of the clinic’s op­er­a­tional funds for the year, prov­ing that choco­late is in­deed pop­u­lar. Av­enues of in­come from the event in­clude ticket sales and silent auc­tion pur­chases, in ad­di­tion to do­na­tions.

In 2017, the 13th an­nual fes­ti­val will be held from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Em­bassy Suites lobby, and guests will be able to sam­ple con­fec­tions like cup­cakes, ice cream, brown­ies and cook­ies, along with fla­vored or filled in­di­vid­ual choco­late pieces.

Ven­dors sup­ply 800 servings of their own choco­late cre­ations, all handed out from elab­o­rately dec­o­rated booths. A panel of judges de­lib­er­ate and choose awards for pre­sen­ta­tion and fla­vor, then a third award is cho­sen by pop­u­lar vote.

Win­ners in 2016 were the Ar­ling­ton Re­sort Ho­tel & Spa for Best Taste, Bliss as Best of Show, and Fat Bot­tomed Girl’s Cup­cake Shoppe took Peo­ple’s Choice.

All three will be present this year to de­fend their ti­tles.

Blanken­ship said ven­dor par­tic­i­pa­tion is open to any group, and she’s seen win­ners from realty groups, schools, bak­eries and restau­rants alike.

Both for­mer and cur­rent CCMC clients give back by vol­un­teer­ing at the fes­ti­val, and a num­ber of lo­cal agen­cies also send vol­un­teers each year. Spon­sor po­si­tions are avail­able for in­di­vid­u­als or or­ga­ni­za­tions who would like to con­trib­ute mon­e­tar­ily.

CCMC will cel­e­brate its 20th an­niver­sary in 2017, and much has changed in that time. Though res­i­dents are still seen in the clinic, since the Af­ford­able Care Act was passed, the ac­tual med­i­cal needs are fewer, as more peo­ple qual­ify for in­sur­ance. Be­cause of that, CCMC is now able to pro­vide ser­vices to ben­e­fit clients more wholly, like through its Get­ting Ahead pro­gram and Bridges Out of Poverty fo­cus. Blanken­ship said these strate­gies pro­mote “heal­ing in lives,” in­stead of just heal­ing in the body.

She de­scribed the Get­ting Ahead cur­ricu­lum as “a self-dis­cov­ery process that helps the par­tic­i­pant iden­tify where they are in all of their re­sources,” then they learn how to uti­lize their strengths to build their weak­nesses. She ex­plained that poverty is go­ing with­out re­sources in gen­eral — not just mone­tary, but in 11 dif­fer­ent ar­eas, in­clud­ing emo­tional, hous­ing, phys­i­cal, net­work build­ing, nu­tri­tion, trans­porta­tion and sta­bil­ity.

One wo­man from that pro­gram’s first class is now em­ployed in a man­age­ment po­si­tion, and de­cid­ing how she will in­vest her 401(k) — some­thing she’d never even heard of a cou­ple years ago.

Other grad­u­ates take part in community change by sit­ting on a task force, mak­ing sure their voices and needs are heard, or through dis­cus­sions with Spa City lead­ers and pol­icy mak­ers dur­ing monthly meet­ings held at 8 a.m. on the third Wed­nes­day of each month in the Greater Hot Springs Cham­ber of Com­merce, to which the pub­lic is wel­come.

It’s the abil­ity for face-to-face client in­volve­ment and see­ing changes in peo­ple’s lives that keep Blanken­ship ex­cited about her job and the clinic. She said, “Peo­ple go to church, typ­i­cally, to see God’s work, and I get to see it here ev­ery day.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tion with other agen­cies is an­other in­gre­di­ent for the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the clinic. CCMC works with lo­cal hos­pi­tals and physi­cians for some med­i­cal ser­vices, and with the Gar­land County De­ten­tion Cen­ter, Pot­ter’s Clay, Hope Move­ment and Sa­mar­i­tan Min­istries to pro­vide Get­ting Ahead cur­ricu­lum to peo­ple served by those en­ti­ties.

Other or­ga­ni­za­tions, like First Bap­tist Church, First United Methodist, The Garage Church and the Hot Springs Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, pro­vide venues for classes, and many Gar­land County den­tists gen­er­ously do­nate time to see Get­ting Ahead grad­u­ates who are in need of den­tal work.

With so much community col­lab­o­ra­tion, it’s only fit­ting that CCMC’s largest fundraiser be a community event, too. Each per­son who at­tends the Choco­late Fes­ti­val is sup­port­ing oth­ers who haven’t had the same ad­van­tages in life — a sweet gift, in­deed.

Ticket prices are $15 in ad­vance or $20 at the door, and can be pur­chased on­line at http://www.ccm­chs.org, at the clinic, 133 Ar­bor St., or in­side Em­bassy Suites, 400 Con­ven­tion Blvd. For those who’d like to feast at the event, but don’t want to stand in line, VIP tick­ets are avail­able for $50 each.

For in­for­ma­tion on be­com­ing a spon­sor, ven­dor or vol­un­teer, call 318-1153.

Choco­late cov­ered straw­ber­ries from the booth of Haute Choco­latier dur­ing the sev­enth an­nual Choco­late Fes­ti­val in 2011.

Line cook Jes­sica Archer, left, and ban­quet cook Ce­cilia Men­dez, of the Ar­ling­ton Re­sort Ho­tel & Spa, pre­pare a dessert dis­play dur­ing the sev­enth an­nual Choco­late Fes­ti­val in 2011.

A choco­late dis­play dur­ing the 11th an­nual Choco­late Fes­ti­val in 2015.

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