Local organizations hope to raise money for Haiti with flavorful benefit

Friday, January 29, 2010 | 7:22 p.m. CST; updated 2:09 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 30, 2010

COLUMBIA -- The Community United Methodist Church will provide a taste of Haitian culture to benefit Red Cross earthquake relief efforts. 

“Creole Cuisine for Haiti Relief” is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the church at 3301 W. Broadway. The event will feature Haitian and Caribbean food from local chefs as well as traditional Francophone music.

Mike Odneal, executive director of the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Sterling Food Service Management initially contacted his agency to help organize and cater the event.

“It’s a unique opportunity for people in the local area to form a kinship with those in Haiti,” Odneal said.

“When the earthquake tragedy happened, we wanted to do something to help,” said chef Paul Blackwell of Sterling Food Service. “It would be logical that we do something involving food.”

Blackwell said that island foods are generally flavorful and involve cooking techniques that are different from American and European cuisine. Items on the menu include Haitian Griot made from roasted marinated pork shoulder, a red bean and rice dish typical of Creole cuisine, and banana fritters.

Although there are differences between American and Island Creole cuisine, they share the same roots. “There’s some kick to it,” Blackwell said.

Pastor Kevin Shelton of Community United Methodist Church said he wants to attract at least 500 people to the event. “Our church is open to the community on many things,” Shelton said.

Shelton said he hopes to make the relief effort a monthly event.

“We’re learning the lessons from Katrina, where you’d do one big event and it dies away," Shelton said. "We want to make this a continuous thing. This is an important thing and we need to help people around the world.  We’re hoping to connect to the world through our church.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Proceeds go to the American Red Cross International Response Fund.

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