Sometimes the best gala is no gala at all.
That's what Community Cooks concluded when it was planning its 25th anniversary celebration this year. The Somerville nonprofit runs a network of 650 volunteers who make meals for homeless shelters, addiction recovery centers, after-school tutoring programs, and other human service agencies in Greater Boston.
"It's so much work to put on an event, and it also costs a lot of money," said executive director Daniele Levine, "so we decided to do this experiment."
The experiment is "Gone with the Gala," and the nonevent takes place this Friday, when, according to the invitation, "the pleasure of your absence" is requested and "you are cordially invited to do whatever you want!" Suggestions include "spend a quiet evening at home, enjoy dinner at your favorite restaurant, dodge the traffic, avoid the speeches, skip the silent auction, pass on the small talk."
Seats are for sale, but it's virtual seats being sold, with most of the proceeds (all but the cost of designing, printing, and mailing the invites) going to charity. A $2,500 "table," for example, will feed 417 people for a month, and a $75 "bar stool" will supply meals for 13. Oh, and space is unlimited.
The event's "hosts" include local chefs Jody Adams (Rialto, Trade), Joanne Chang (Flour, Myers + Chang), and Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra, Sarma); Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich; Douglas Chamberlain, CEO of the Boston investment firm Appleton Partners; and Ken Kelly, owner of the Somerville restaurants Foundry on Elm and The Independent.
Many people find the concept amusing and refreshing, Levine said, but some are a bit perplexed. "We've had people say, 'I'm sorry – I really wish I could come,'" she recalled, "and I've said, 'No, there's nowhere to be!'"
Proof that there's high demand to skip the gala circuit? Community Cooks hoped to raise $50,000 through its novel fundraiser – and has already brought in more than $65,000.