Cause to Celebrate

Amy and Will Barfield
Amy and Will Barfield
Host Barry Daniels toasts his guests as Marijane Strohbusch, left, Alicia Lehmkuhl, center, and Amy Barfield raise their glasses.
Host Barry Daniels toasts his guests as Marijane Strohbusch, left, Alicia Lehmkuhl, center, and Amy Barfield raise their glasses.
Jane Cones, a wine advisor with Wines for Humanity, tells guests about Urban Ministries and how they can help the organization fight homelessness.
Jane Cones, a wine advisor with Wines for Humanity, tells guests about Urban Ministries and how they can help the organization fight homelessness.

More than a dozen people gather in Lana Daniels’ great room. Clutching wine glasses and nibbling on appetizers, they tease each other good-naturedly and chatter with the ease of long friendships.

Wearing holiday sweaters and sparkling dresses, they glow with the spirit of the season.

This scene will be repeated in endless variations throughout the holidays, but this party has an added element. The wine for the evening comes from Wines for Humanity, which donates a percentage of its profits to fight homelessness. In the Triangle, proceeds go to Urban Ministries of Wake County.

Party Planning Tips

Hosting a party with a charitable element may add some tasks to your planning list. Our experts offer these suggestions:

  • Pick a cause, and contact the local charity for its wish list or other requests.
  • Set the scene. Often the party theme can be matched with the cause. Collecting coats at a hot chocolate party is one idea.
  • How to deliver? If you are collecting toys, food or other items, figure out how you will get the donations to the charity.
  • Let people know how they can help. Describe the charity’s mission and include suggested donations. Evite even allows you to link to your charity from the invitation.
  • Take photos! If you wish to promote your event, take lots of photos and post on social media.
  • Thank your guests with an email or a note after the event.

“We let people know that every little bit helps. We also put out there that they can volunteer for the organization,” said Daniels, of Apex. “A lot of people aren’t even aware that Urban Ministries exists and how they can get involved.”

These celebrations for a cause offer hosts a way to gather with family and friends, and give back to the community at the same time. Daniels, who has given six or seven parties with Wines for Humanity, says it’s important to let guests know both purposes.

“I always let guests know in my invitation that it’s to benefit Urban Ministries,” she said, “so they have the expectation that when they’re coming to the wine tasting, it’s not just to enjoy good wine.”

At a Wines for Humanity tasting, guests are led through a sampling, usually of seven wines, explains Jane Cones, a wine advisor with the group. Tips are offered on the right way to sip and serve wine, on food pairings, and even on how to hold a wine glass.

After the presentation, attendees may buy bottles of the featured wines. All charitable donations and the wine advisor’s commission come from orders taken at an event.

In the nine years she has been with the company, Cones says nearly $40,000 has been given to Urban Ministries.

“It’s a great way to get your friends together,” she said. “You’re having fun, and it’s a social event that’s helping your local community.”

New traditions

In Zankhna Parekh’s family, donating to charity instead of buying gifts has become part of their holiday tradition.

“We always do a big holiday party and an ornament exchange. We always say absolutely no gifts, and if you must, then donate to our foundation,” said Parekh, co-founder of the Parekh Family Foundation, which supports education and medical aid in the U.S. and abroad.

“Sometimes we leave a box at the front door with a little slit in it,” she continued. “If people don’t donate online, don’t want to bring an item, or want to be left anonymous, they can put money in the box.”

She also collects shoes at get-togethers throughout the year. The Parekh Family Foundation promotes foot and ankle health worldwide, and its Soles for Souls program distributes hundreds of pairs of shoes to orphanages in India and Africa.

Parekh and her husband, who live in Cary, travel to India several times a year, taking 300 to 400 pairs of shoes on every trip.

Fill a need

No Gifts Please!

Whether you send emails or paper invitations, clearly spell out your wishes. Here are a few ways to say it:

  • Please let your charitable donation to [organization] be your only gifts to us.
  • Please just bring yourself. If you do wish to bring gifts, we will be donating them to [organization].
  • No gifts please. Instead please share your generosity with [organization].
  • If you were thinking about purchasing a present, please consider donating those funds to [organization] instead.



Tara Lynn, communications manager with the SPCA of Wake County, says that nonprofits benefit from parties not just at the holidays but year-round, especially birthday parties where guests are asked to bring pet supplies instead of gifts.

Tanya Lopez of Cary has been throwing birthday parties like this for several years, but the birthday boy is her peekapoo, Chewy. For her pup’s first few birthday parties, Lopez was surprised at the enthusiasm of her guests.

“People were bringing him gifts and texting us with questions on ‘what does he like.’ It was just like having a real child,” she said. “Chewy has enough toys and balls to fill an entire pet store. So that’s when the idea was born to have these parties to help dogs and families in need.”

Chewy’s third birthday party last year was the first to benefit the SPCA, and raised $500 for the group. This year’s party raised $1,500, says Lopez.

“So many people brought more than we ever thought,” she said. “We challenged people to bring one and a half or even twice what they brought the previous year.”
For a holiday spin on this idea, Lynn suggests creating an angel tree to benefit the SPCA.


Tanya Lopez’s peekapoo, Chewy, sits atop the donations for the SPCA of Wake County that his friends and family brought for his birthday. This year’s event raised $1,500, says Lopez.

Instead of ornaments, hang photos of dogs, cats and rabbits with needed items written on the back. Guests can choose an ornament, pick up the item and bring it back to the host or deliver it to the rescue group themselves. The SPCA even has a wish list with Amazon — folks can order needed items and they’re delivered right to the nonprofit.

Beginning in November, the group offers sponsorships which come with an attractive card that can be wrapped and placed under the tree for the animal-lover on your list.

Lynn also suggests the easiest way to help at the holidays: Add “donation to SPCA” to your personal gift list.

“Most of us don’t really need anything,” she said. “It’s a time to get together with friends and family.”

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