Local is fun and delicious eats

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Briggen Wrinkle, new executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, enjoys her introduction at the organization’s Community Taste fundraiser at Blue Lake Ranch.

Toss in some goat cheese from Lazy Ewe Dairy Farm (great name), a little James Ranch beef and zucchini, some Sunnyside Farms Market pork and what do you get?

The Community Taste fundraiser – that’s what. The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado held its fourth annual dinner featuring local cuisine and local chefs Thursday night at the Ridgewood Event Center at Blue Lake Ranch. Shirley Isgar and David Alford were gracious hosts, decorating the tables with small vases filled with bright pink dahlias.

More than 120 people chowed down while supporting what Tim Walsworth, president and CEO of Southwest Colorado, called our “savings account for charity,” and what new foundation Executive Director Briggen Wrinkle calls “the community’s savings account.”

On the menu – some chefs were more informative than others – were a fresh, light green salad from Cyprus Café; pasta salad from the DoubleTree Hotel; Steamworks Brewing Co.’s black bean succotash featuring produce from Thistle Whistle Farm (another great name) of Hotchkiss, including varieties of potatoes – bintje, purple Peruvian, Merlot and Ozette, sweet corn – sweet peppers and basil; chili beef with tortillas prepared by Durangourmet; slow roasted pork served over onion-and-apple sauté topped with cranberry compote (one of my personal favorites) prepared by The Palace Restaurant; sweet potato and parmesan-crusted James Ranch zucchini sliders with three-cheddar salsa, tomato-basil sauce and walnut pesto courtesy of The Yellow Carrot; smoked trout and scallion dip with crostini created by Nature’s Oasis, using Rainbow Springs Trout Farm trout, scallions from the chef’s backyard garden (now that’s putting some effort into the food), goat cheese from the aforementioned lazy ewes and crostini from Serious Delights Bakery made with wheat from Blue Horizons Farm; and curried butternut squash bisque prepared by the chefs at Carver Brewing Co. and topped with pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds, a popular food addition at this time of year and my other personal favorite).

I would name the chefs, but I could only read a few of the signatures, and I don’t want to get it wrong!

Celebration Cakes donated the carrot cake. Carver’s contributed beer, as did Ska Brewing Co. Joe’s Animas Wine and Spirits and Star Liquors came through with the vino. Other sponsors included Stillwell Foot and Ankle, First National Bank of Durango (thanks for welcoming me to your table), Durango Party Rental and The Durango Herald.

Members of Durango Friends of the Arts, which manages both its Grant and Lifetime funds through the foundation, did the serving and cleanup. They included Karren Little, Dana Wilson, Cindy Cortese and President Carol Bruno.

Tim Sullivan and Narrow Gauge provided quiet music for dinner, but ramped it up to fill the dance floor afterward.

The evening was also Wrinkle’s public debut. In August, she stepped into the position vacated by Lon Erwin, who is now the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County.

Wrinkle’s working on how to create a short, intriguing explanation of what the community foundation does. She’s getting there, but describing just what the foundation is has been a challenge since the organization was founded in 1997.

Here’s my stab at it: It’s a place where nonprofits, service clubs and philanthropically minded families can create funds and endowments, watch them grow and give away the interest, allowing the principal to continue to grow.

Fortunately, whether or not everyone understands it, it’s working.

In 2011, the foundation and the funds it manages gave away $400,000 in grants, $354,000 in scholarships and $561,000 in program grants. That’s more than $1.3 million for the mathematically challenged.

Wrinkle is a whirlwind of energy, which is amazing when you consider the fact that she has not one, but two sets of twins with her husband John Reiter, who is the district manager at Purgatory Metro District. The twins, both sets including one boy and one girl, are 11 and 7.

Wrinkle comes to Durango via Columbus, Ohio, where she grew up, and Chicago, where she lived for 12 years, working in the nonprofit world for the Alzheimer’s Association and in marketing and public relations.

The couple re-evaluated what they wanted from life in the wake of Sept. 11 and came to Durango.

In between taking care of children, Wrinkle has consulted for entities ranging from Durango High School and Fort Lewis College to Edgemont Highlands. She also has served on boards, including the Children’s Museum, which became the Discovery Museum, and a number of committees for the Durango School District.

She’s got a couple of main goals for her first few months. She wants to recruit three or four new members for the hard working board – call her at 375-5807 to discuss it – and is seeking donors to help with some much needed upgrades to technology and staff salaries as well as everything from postage to software systems to an ad in Durango Magazine to promote the foundation. Again, call her.

This foundation has the potential to transform the way giving works in La Plata County, building some long-term stability for the nonprofit sector. That might be the best investment of all for generous donors who want to look toward the future.

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Dancing in the rain for their birthdays are Valerie Beaudette, Wardine Lee, Carol House, Katherine Siegele, Patricia Anderson, Elaine Honold, Kermit Knudsen, Art Meyer, Norma Jean Engman, Steve Sproul, Renee Knight, David Shipps, Carrie Thurman, Cathy Duggan, Ann Ruetschle, Lance Townsend, Diane Trembly, Linda Gramera, John Hughes, Carson Leavitt, Mallory Liggett, Julian Sieger, Cody Martinez, Joshua Moore, Don Simonson, Ann Wiley, Nancy Fisher, Dana Wilson and Mike Milner.

Belated greetings go out to Brynn Nelson.

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Mmm, the sudden chill in the air has me even more eagerly anticipating Manna Soup Kitchen’s 10th Annual Soup Supper, which will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. today at the St. Columba Gym, 1801 East Third Ave. It’s easiest to go in through the back from the parking lot between the church and school.

The cost is a very reasonable $10 for people 13 and older, and $5 for children aged 3 to 12. There’s live music, the gym is always festively decorated, and the soups are fabulous.

(Just to entice those wavering on whether to attend, how do seafood bisque, a vegetarian, dairy- and gluten-free coconut soup with lemon grass, turkey-corn chowder and Irish stew sound?)

Of course, because this is a fundraiser, there are a wide variety of silent and live auction items, and it’s a great place to get started on your holiday shopping.

I don’t know how other folks feel, but making sure no one goes hungry in our community is a core value for me. The Soup Supper is a fun and delicious way to support the folks at Manna Soup Kitchen in their quest to fill the tummies of our friends and neighbors who are going through hard times.

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We have been reminded in a tragic way this week that former Peace Corps volunteers can go on to change the world, as Ambassador Chris Stevens did in his tireless work toward peace in Libya and the Middle East. He began his interest in the region by teaching English in Morocco during his two-year stint in the organization started by Sargent Shriver in 1961.

To date, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 75 nations around the world, including many who now live in Durango.

During the coming week, Lauren Dorosz, the regional recruiter will be in town to answer questions for folks interested in exploring the possibilities of a Peace Corps commitment.

It’s no longer just a young person’s opportunity. The average age is now 28, about 7 percent of volunteers are older than 50 and 7 percent of the volunteers go as married couples, as Jeff and Deb Schultz did a few years ago in Jamaica.

Dorosz will be at Fort Lewis College for its Job Fair on Wednesday and will hold a community information session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. later that day at the Durango Community Recreation Center. Anyone who is interested, not just for the immediate future, but perhaps sometime in the future, is invited to attend.

And if you’re an RPCV – that’s Peace Corps talk for Returned Peace Corps Volunteer – Dorosz is organizing a potluck from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Sunlight Room at the rec center. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share and/or a nonalcoholic beverage, and your own plates and utensils. When I’ve written about these potlucks in the past, the menu usually consisted of a wide array of international dishes representing all the countries where attendees serve.

To learn more, contact Dorosz at ldorosz@peacecorps.gov or (720) 998-6776. You also can check out the Peace Corps at www.peacecorps.gov.

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Cuddling to share body heat during these chilly nights as well as to celebrate their anniversaries are Todd and Jessica Sharp, Frank and Ricci Dawson, Mark Dickmann and Eve Gilmore, Bruce and Annette Nye and Jim and Dorothy Gore.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos.

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