CARBONDALE — The ninth annual Taste of Chocolate hosted by the Women’s Center is Friday, Feb 9, at the Carbondale Civic Center.
This year’s fundraiser is particularly important after the center struggled to hang on financially during the state budget crisis over the past two years. John Pfeifer, development specialist with the center, said Taste of Chocolate fundraiser typically raises about $30,000 to $35,000 a year, but the center is shooting for $40,000 this time around.
Pfeifer served on the board of directors for the center for more than three years before working full-time. For two of those years, he was the treasurer. He said the stopgap appropriations by the state didn’t have any money for domestic violence prevention.
Because the center couldn’t access funds it relied on to function, it also couldn’t access federal dollars that were tied to matching funds. At one point in June, Pfeifer said the center was owed about $500,000 in government funds.
“We have went from having a nice nest egg to having a line of credit on our building and monitoring our cash flow every payroll period,” he said. “The good news is that has been filled back in.”
The fundraiser at the Carbondale Civic Center is $35 per ticket, which will include food, a live and silent auction and a cash bar. Each of the food options will have a chocolate theme to it as local chefs prepare specialized dishes.
Pfeifer said another goal of his is to expand the center’s donor base.
The center provides services in eight counties, but because the shelter is in Carbondale, most of the board members are from Carbondale and many of the donors are from Jackson County, Pfeifer said. He said many of the residents in Marion don’t realize there is an office in their city. There are offices in the Williamson and Franklin County courthouses, as well as an office in Harrisburg. The center also provides services in Gallatin County.
“When you're 85 percent state and federal grant funded, and the state of Illinois is in the financial situation that it is … it is hard to imagine our state funds increasing. It is likely over time they are going to decrease,” Pfeifer said.
He said the ratio has come closer together. Instead of raising $200,000 locally, Pfeifer said the center should probably get closer to about $500,000.
"That ratio has to change. We have to get closer instead of raising $200,000 locally, I think we need to get to the point of raising $500,000. We are going to have to do this at same time every other not-for-profit is trying to do exactly the same thing,” he said.
All of the funds raised from the event will go right back into the center’s budget.
Major sponsors for the event are Southern Illinois Healthcare, Penn Aluminum, The Southern Illinoisan, River Radio, The City of Carbondale, Higher Level Staffing Services, State Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, and State Rep. Terri Bryant.