One could attend a fundraiser every few days in this giving community, but few events warm the body and soul like Hospice of Mercy’s Soup for the Soul.
This year’s event was held March 19 at the Exhibit Hall at La Plata County Fairgrounds, and the joint was hopping with 450 guests, another 30 or 40 volunteers and crews from 18 different food purveyors.
The evening began with schmoozing and bidding on a cornucopia of delightful silent auction items collected by Betsy Romere, Anne Swisher and Shauna Agnew, before guests began queuing to taste some of the soups, stews and chowders on offer along with appetizers and desserts, including the DoubleTree Hotel’s famous chocolate chip cookies.
For the first time, organizers offered soup aficionados the opportunity to vote for their favorite concoctions. Many took them up on it, with the vote resulting in a tie.
Chimayo’s apple-root vegetable soup and East by Southwest’s Chicken Tortilla Soup with avocado and queso fresco won bragging rights. Some people were valiant enough to try every single soup, but most, like me, selected the best of the ones our stomachs could accommodate, so you know everyone was a contender.
Other possibilities for hungry diners included: Carver Brewing Co.’s Moroccan cauliflower bisque, along with pastrami-cured salmon BLTs; CJ’s Diner’s cream of chicken with green chiles, along with assorted dessert bars and brownies; Cyprus Café ladled up Greek aromatka soup (yellow lentils, potatoes, chicken and cumin) and spiced lamb in phyllo; Digs Restaurant & Bar prepared an andouille sausage, buffalo and tenderloin chili with cornbread to accompany it; The Red Snapper dished out curried shrimp soup and caramelized apple-blue cheese phyllo cups; Eolus Bar & Dining prepared a wild mushroom soup with truffle oil creme fraiche and salmon poke on wonton chips; the Glacier Club served chicken and wild mushroom soup accompanied by a Parmesan-asparagus strudel; Hot Tomatoes Café and Catering had simmered a Thai chicken soup as well as baking mini-cupcakes and lemon bars; Mahogany Grille did a lot of chopping for its carrot-ginger soup with cashews, then again for an appetizer of stuffed sundried dates with Gorgonzola cheese, wrapped them in bacon and grilled before drizzling with honey; Mutu’s Italian Kitchen made a lemon shrimp risotto soup; Season’s Rotisserie & Grille ladled up a minestrone with Italian sausage; Norton’s Catering prepared a seafood chowder as well as shucking countless oysters to serve them on the half shell; the Ore House served beef tenderloin two ways, in a soup and as an appetizer; the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge provided an appetizer and dessert; and the Garden Terrace Cafe at Mercy Regional Medical Center made shrimp and fruit kebabs and went Indian with chicken Mulligatawny soup. Salivating yet?
Eno’s provided the coffee to end the repast, Steamworks Brewing Co. poured some brews, and Stan and Alice Crapo of Star Liquors came through once again and sponsored the wine.
I have enjoyed this event for many years, and I have the soup mugs to prove it. (They’re the annual party favor.) Karen Midkiff, chief development officer for Mercy Health Foundation, which organizes the event, said there’s always the “battle of the mugs” among sponsors, because people will see their mug and think warm thoughts all year long. Bank of Colorado got the naming rights this year, and it did it by booking last October.
Hospice of Mercy also honors someone each year with its Award of Courage. The honoree this year was Alpine Bank, for the grace and strength shown by all its employees after the Christmas-time plane crash two years ago that killed three colleagues and friends, Jan Osborne, Tyler Black and Gena Rych, along with Osborne’s husband, Steve.
Beth Drum, Mike Burns and Eric Kyper represented the bank, sharing moving memories of the loss and the healing, with a lot of help from the community. Because of Drum’s position on Mercy Health’s board, she knew whom to call. Midkiff helped get Mercy’s Diana McKenna and a team of chaplains together to help the employees through those first shocking days.
And then it was time to raise money for the Hospice of Mercy Experience, or H.O.M.E., a 10-room inpatient hospice facility so people who cannot die at home have a warm, welcoming place to live their final days instead of a hospital or nursing home. It was a wonderful and energizing evening, with Ed Lacey from Four Corners Broadcasting serving as “auctioneer.”
Two entities, First Southwest Bank, via President Kent Curtis, and the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, as announced by founder Ed Zink and his wife, Patti, pledged $25,000. (For those of you riding in the Iron Horse, isn’t it good to know that a portion of the entry fees is going to something great?)
Bob’s John’s and Fogelman Consulting anted up $10,000, while Mark Daigle, president of First National Bank of Durango, encouraged the first five $1,000 donations by agreeing to match them. (That’s on top of the bank’s donation of $10,000 last year. BP, courtesy of Dave Smith, also stepped up again, giving $10,000 last year and $5,000 this year.)
By the end of the evening, and I definitely need a drumroll here, the coffers of Mercy Health Foundation had increased to the tune of more than $192,000. About $72,000 of that will go to the ongoing operations of Hospice of Mercy, where no one is turned away because of inability to pay, and the other approximately $120,000 goes to the H.O.M.E. project.
That takes the fundraising for the project to about $2.3 million of the $4.3 million needed, close enough that they are planning to break ground this year. (Plus, people get more excited about something when they see it actually happening.)
Kay Hoppe-Jones, the foundation’s event officer, has the planning down to a “t,” with her foundation colleagues Joy Hess and Lauri Wilson-Lacy pitching in big time to help make it happen.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the students at Animas High School, who took on the Herculean task of setting up the room; Native Roots donates the trees and shrubs, which convert the echoing concrete Exhibit Hall into something more welcoming, and Cindy Shelton of Wildwoods Fine Flowers once again worked to get beautiful and distinctive floral arrangements for every table. Jeff Landon of Pagosa Photography documented the event for the foundation.
Midkiff called this a true community project, with donations ranging from less than $20 to $750,000.
If you want to support the H.O.M.E. project (or Hospice of Mercy, for that matter), send your tax-deductible donations to Mercy Health Foundation, 1010 Three Springs Blvd., Durango, CO 81301, with the designation of where you want your money to go.
Some of these folks are celebrating their birthdays while lounging around on a beach during spring break – Virginia Rohr, Mary Marugg, Shirley Drover, Joyce Watt, Jack Kloepfer, Dana Siekman, Michael Kevin Swinderman, Rick Kniffin, Paul Wainwright, Ben Roberts, Chip White, Peter Rudolph, Vicki Armstrong, Sheila Casey, Sunny Pulliam, Sue Cowan, Bette Hart, Katie Kloepfer, Amy Wilson, Margi Coxwell (who accompanied Gemma Kavanaugh on “Danny Boy” and “Annie Moore” at the closing of the Smithsonian Journey Stories exhibit on March 16), Betty Loffer, Peter Strength, Aaron Strietzel, Gabe Thompson, Patti Baranowski and Debra Forssberg.
Special greetings go to Miss Paige Porter, who will enter double digits Friday by turning 10.
While I’m on the subject of birthdays, Beverly Darmour’s family threw a lovely party for her 90th at Durango Public Library on Saturday evening. (She was also honored at Soup for the Soul for helping to found Hospice of Mercy with her late husband, the Rev. Myron “Mike” Darmour, so many people were thinking of her last week.)
Her entire family was on hand, including the newest generation, Calla Lam, 15 months, and her big brother, Sebastian Lam, 6, who was engrossed in his book for part of the party, proving he’s definitely Darmour’s great-grandson. She’s been a lifelong avid reader and supporter of the library, serving on its Advisory Board for so many years they can be counted in decades.
Of course, Calla and Sebastian didn’t come by themselves. Their parents, Gabriel and Molly Lam, brought them from Burlingame, Calif. Gabriel is the son of David and Tina Lam, who make their home in Ann Arbor, Mich., unless they’re in Capetown, South Africa, or here in Durango, where both Tina and David grew up. (He’s an economics professor at the University of Michigan, working on long-term research about youth and unemployment that has taken them several times to the distant nation on sabbatical research; she’s a professor of journalism at the University of Michigan at Dearborn after a long and illustrious career at the Detroit Free Press.)
Darmour’s middle child, Reenie Neal, is a professor of English at Mesa State College, where her partner, Lyn Fraser, is a chaplain, writer and apparently brews a great cup of coffee.
And Fitz Neal, a pastor at a Presbyterian church in Vancouver, Wash., and his wife, Laurel, also a pastor, round out the gang.
They did something great – each child shared one favorite memory of growing up with Darmour. Tina remembered her mother’s support when, while planning her wedding to David Lam in 1972, the bride chose red calico for her wedding dress. Darmour even made the dress and later told me that she still treasures a scrap from that dress.
Reenie, at the age of 2 or 3, decided to head down to the Animas River to go fishing. During June run-off. With a little pole she’d made herself. When the police brought her home, her mother didn’t scold, she just opened her arms wide and said, “Thank God, you’re home safe and sound.”’
Fitz shared another example of Darmour’s gracious forgiveness. When he was 5, he became enamored of a brooch in his mother’s jewelry box. And he had an idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to bury it, then dig it up as hidden treasure and present it to his mother? After convincing two of his friends to help, off they went to the vacant lot next door.
But when it was time to retrieve it, they couldn’t find it. It turned out not to be any old brooch, but a family keepsake Darmour was planning to present to Tina on her wedding day. His two friends got in trouble, but Darmour didn’t want to punish Fitz for coming up with a creative idea. As for the brooch? The three dads dug up the whole lot, but alas, couldn’t find it. So it remains a favorite funny family story, which may actually be a better ending than actually finding it.
The evening was a wonderful chance to catch up with “old” Durango. Longtime friends like Illamae Waters, Dorothy Gore, Kay Cooley and Marj Martinson, who spoke, were on hand, along with a number of their own descendants. Sam and Kathy Burns, who more or less had to make a command performance at their son’s 50th birthday party the same night, also sent a loving message to a lovely lady.
Fitz said he describes his mother to his parishioners as “Blind as a bat, deaf as a post, stubborn as a mule and happy as a lark.” While she’s not completely blind or deaf, she is stubborn when it’s something she believes in – and her happiness may just be the secret to a long life, or at least a long life worth living!
Croci and daffodils are blooming for the anniversaries of Bob and Scattie McGrath, Kermit and Karen Knudsen and Terry and Sandy Hoel.