Three Charleston nonprofits that serve the area's homeless population will be splitting up a half a million dollars raised by an annual dinner put on by Indigo Road's Steve Palmer and Charleston Grill's Mickey Bakst.
Bakst, who started Feed the Need and spearheaded A Community United, which reportedly raised more than $500,000 for families after the shooting at Emanuel AME in 2016, put his significant industry connections to work for the dinner. He estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the money will benefit One80 Place, Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach's Neighborhood House and Tricounty Family Ministries.
He chose those charities because they build on Feed the Need's mission of helping the homeless population.
"I can send restaurants into shelters," he says. "Every week, at least once if not twice a week, we have restaurants in area shelters where they’re feeding people. But we've expanded on that and are trying to help organizations and programs that work to get people out of homelessness by providing job skills and life skills."
The annual dinner for several years was part of the national Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry campaign, but Bakst convinced Palmer, who hosted the dinner, to shift it to be a local fundraiser. Palmer and his team were already involved in Feed the Need.
"We were sitting down and thinking about that money going to Share Our Strength, which is a great cause," says Bakst. "But the money didn't stay here, so we said, 'Let's keep the money in our community.'"
The first year, Bakst says they raised about $300,000, followed by about $400,000 last year. "Last night, the guests were going, 'We're gonna make it $700,000 next year," he says, adding that he's still on cloud nine after the event.
Going into the event on Sunday, they had already sold $200,000 in tickets to the dinner, which was organized by Jeremiah Bacon of Indigo Road and brought in chefs like Mike Lata and Michelle Weaver to work with topnotch talent like Michael Anthony of New York's Gramercy Tavern. The rest of the money was raised through an auction that included several all-expense paid trips donated by Bakst's employer.
"Chefs do so much for this community," says Bakst. "It boggles my mind how they support every organization, but the guests last night, the community was supporting them."