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Soiree brings in highest amount in a decade for Community Health Center

Celebrity Chef Chris Fennimore assist in the preparation of the appetizer course
Celebrity Chef Chris Fennimore, of “QED Cooks,” assisted in the preparation of the appetizer course at Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center’s Signature Sensations fundraiser dinner Saturday, Nov. 4, at Butler Country Club in Penn Township. Chris Leisie/Special to the Butler Eagle

SUMMIT TWP — Officials at the Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center rely solely on grants, donations and fundraisers to continue to provide vital, and sometimes lifesaving, services to the uninsured or underinsured in Butler County.

They were delighted to find they had raised $114,369 at the Nov. 4 Signature Sensations, the annual food and wine fundraiser held at the Butler Country Club in Penn Township.

“This was just a spectacular result,” said Jim Cunningham, development director at the health center.

He said the proceeds from Signature Sensations — which is the health center’s largest annual fundraiser — has raised more than $600,000 for the facility in the last decade.

The amount taken in each year supports about 20% of the health center’s annual operating budget, which is about $576,000 this year.

Signature Sensations, which is sold out each year, sees benevolent county residents, employees and staff of sponsors, as well as others, enjoying a five-course meal prepared by chefs from restaurants in the county and region.

Chris Fennimore, a celebrity chef who appears on WQED, attends Signature Sensations and helps one of the chefs prepare their dish in front of the crowd with the help of overhead cameras.

In addition, several high-end raffle baskets, a wine education class and vendors selling their wares round out Signature Sensations, which is an invitation-only event.

Because all the food is donated for the event, Cunningham said the total cost to pay the waitstaff and rental for the country club, plus the purchase of the wine that was paired with each course at dinner, was $14,000.

Cunningham said most of the proceeds from Signature Sensations come from sponsorships from several generous businesses and organizations.

He said sponsors generated $106,789 of the total amount raised this year.

One reason for the increased proceeds this year, Cunningham said, is the increased ticket price, which has been $125 a person since the event’s inception 10 years ago.

This year, individuals and organizations that sponsored tables paid $150 per ticket, and the levels of sponsorship were raised as well.

“The sponsors that came in at the lower levels never batted an eyelash,” Cunningham said.

He said sponsors who donate $10,000 get a table for eight people.

“There are a lot of seats taken up by sponsors,” Cunningham said.

He said the 2024 Signature Sensations is already sold out.

“This is one of the most popular events I’ve ever been involved in,” Cunningham said. “One gentleman from Cranberry Township reserved three tables. Another gentleman, a doctor, said ‘I want to be a major sponsor next year.’”

This year, the Roger and Brenda Gibson Foundation provided a $25,000 matching grant, meaning the foundation matched donations up to $25,000.

Cunningham said he sent a thank-you email to all the restaurants involved in Signature Sensations and asked if they want to do it again in 2024.

“They’re all in,” he said.

He said Fennimore also looks forward to Signature Sensations each year.

“He had to leave early, but he leaned over and said ‘Put me down for next year,’” Cunningham said.

Cunningham, a longtime musician, used a unique method to get the attention of the 216 people chatting at their tables before the event kicked off.

He pulled out his trusty trumpet and blasted out an expert rendition of “Reveille,” the riff that has awoken American military men and women for decades.

“I’ve played that a million times,” Cunningham said of his time as a Navy musician. “Everyone hated me for it.”

He said the unexpected horn playing silenced everyone immediately.

“Then they applauded, then we got started,” Cunningham said.

He said all those in attendance and the event sponsors spend time and money at Signature Sensations each year because they believe in the Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center’s mission.

“The community really steps up,” Cunningham said.

Line of prizes up for grabs at the Signature Sensations fundraiser
Just a few of the prizes up for grabs at this year’s Signature Sensations fundraiser for the Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Butler Country Club in Penn Township. Chris Leisie/Special to the Butler Eagle

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