Fundraising dinner brings the experience to donors’ homes

CROWDED TABLE: In 2019, guests at the Sunset Dining dinner supporting The Free Clinics gathered at Cabin Ridge event center. This year, TFC is staging an at-home celebration with home delivery. Photo from The Free Clinics

For two years, supporters of The Free Clinics in Hendersonville have gathered annually for Sunset Dining, a dinner on a Sugarloaf Mountain ridgetop to raise funds for the nonprofit, which was founded in 2001 to ensure health care accessibility for uninsured, low-income clients. “The event is held in an open-air pavilion at Cabin Ridge,” says Sarah Friedell, community relations coordinator for TFC. “It is just a stunning venue with gorgeous mountain views and a spectacular sunset.”

And despite current social distancing challenges, Sunset Dining will go on, she assures, if not exactly as originally planned. “Like everything else, including TFC services, we had to pivot to a creative alternative.”

Together Apart: A Virtual Sunset Dining Experience will take place on the scheduled date of Sunday, July 19, but closer to home. “We already had the caterer booked and our wine partner, so that hasn’t changed,” Friedell explains. “Instead of gathering at Cabin Ridge, we’ll bring the dinner to donors on that date, and they can set up wherever they choose.”

The organization got creative in figuring out how to package the high-end dining experience. Both the event’s omnivore and vegetarian/vegan menus by Food Experience catering company will offer five courses and a bottle of wine from Crate Wine Market & Project. The Free Clinics staff will deliver the meals to addresses in the Asheville area and Henderson and Polk counties that afternoon. An enclosed printed program will share the link to an online performance by a string quartet from the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and remarks from The Free Clinics Executive Director Judith Long.

Another popular event, MANNA FoodBank’s Blue Jean Ball, which typically happens each year in June, announced that it’s canceled for 2020, though the need for food has risen dramatically in the 16 counties the organization serves. MANNA special events manager Kelly Schwartz asks folks who would typically throw on a costume and their dancing shoes for the party with a purpose to instead donate the cost of one $95 ticket, which provides emergency food boxes for nine families.

Orders for the Sunset Dining event must be placed by July 10 at To donate to MANNA, visit


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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