Solar Youth, TGWNN Put The Fun Into Fundraising

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOFrom Mayor Toni Harp’s shimmering inaugural ball last Saturday, whose net proceeds will benefit New Haven youth and senior programs, to creative fundraisers held around the city last weekend, energized supporters came out to boost youth empowerment and much-needed staples for Loaves and Fishes, a local food pantry that provides “radical hospitality” to the working poor and unemployed.

Amid the Jurassic wonderland of dinosaur bones and fossils at Yale Peabody Museum Friday, Solar Youth, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is making a difference in the lives of young people in some of New Haven’s most under served communities, held its annual fundraiser, dubbed “Solar Youth Solar Jam.” Executive Director and founder Joanne Sciulli offered a short explanation of the organization’s name: “Energy from life comes from the sun. Energy for Solar Youth comes from the youth—therefore Solar Youth.”

Sponsored in part by Stratton Faxon trial lawyers, the Solar Jam treated supporters to a night of “Food, Fun and Dance.” But throughout the evening, the focus on Solar Youth’s mission of youth empowerment through its diverse programs of environmental exploration, community service and leadership development was apparent.

Colorful, informational displays and placards helped underscore Solar Youth programs and activities, while a brief message from Sciulli,acknowledged the dedication of Solar Youth staff: “This group of people that have been passing around food to you tonight, every day they are faced with connecting to, and being one more positive person in young people’s lives who are faced with ridiculous challenges.”

Faced with his own challenge in auctioning some of the donated event premiums was Hummel Brothers Inc.‘s Eric Hummel, who held court just below the gaping Jaws of the giant T-Rex depicted in Rudolph F. Zallinger’s epic mural, The Age of Reptiles. Among one of the more competitively bid offerings, was a Sushi and Saki home dinner for 12 prepared by Bun Lai, one of New Haven’s most beloved chefs.

Throughout the evening, supporters enjoyed mashed potato station fixins, prepared by Cloud Nine Catering of Old Saybrook.

Some folks mugged for the camera in the Solar Youth dress-up photo booth ...

... while others, like New Haven state Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield (D-New Haven), in the midst of a SNAP challenge (legistators try to survive on the $28 weekly budget afforded to recipients of the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), were content to enjoy the festive atmosphere, satisfied that they were supporting a great cause in Solar Youth programs.

The wind-swept rain that pelted New Haven last Saturday evening, was not enough to deter the success of another fundraiser sponsored by TGWNN (The Group With No Name). The civic organization was founded one year after Solar Youth in 2001 by New Haven native Janna Wagner and a group of friends who love New Haven.

TGWNN members have a “commitment to active citizenry,” engaging in “social, civic and educational activities that in turn, increase their understanding of and commitment to city issues and city life,” according to the group’s Facebook page. Among TGWNN’s altruistic activities, is fundraising for worthy causes that benefit New Haven residents.

Saturday’s “Dark Spring” masquerade ball, held in one of New Haven’s most beautifully restored building interiors, Roia Restaurant & Cafe on College Street, was a benefit for the Loaves and Fishes food pantry ministry of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James, located at Chapel and Olive Streets. Wagner, a Wooster Square resident, said she noticed the growing lines outside the pantry every weekend and it struck a cord. The group decided to raise as much money as possible for the “amazing organization.”

The “Dark Spring” masquerade ball drew an assortment of masked supporters-the elegant, the feathered, the cubist, the whimsical.

In a quiet corner of the ballroom, a Tarrot reader turned cards and revealed secrets.

In another corner, revelers shook off the last remnants of winter, welcoming spring with their spirited dancing.

For others, it was an opportunity to imbibe, to eat, to see and be seen.

The TGWNN gathering, a collection of “dreamers and doers” did what they have been doing best for nearly 14 years-“Having fun while doing good.”

Donations to the Loaves and Fishes pantry can be made here.

Click here, to help support the work of Solar Youth Inc.

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posted by: redhed on April 2, 2014  7:13pm

This is such an informative and well written article.  Thank you David.  I only wish that I could have been there.  Having fun and doing good.  You can’t beat that.

Michelle Webber
Los Angeles, CA

posted by: A. Thought on April 4, 2014  6:26am

Mardi Gras in New Haven, for a cause!  Much better than Mardi Gras in New Orleans,  just because!  Looks like people had a good time partying at both events while benefiting others.  Just another example of how much New Haven cares.