About 750 people, including vendors and volunteers, tasted beer and wine to help those in need on Saturday.
Friend Inc. Community Services in Kutztown hosted its 6th annual FriendFest Benefit Beer and Wine Festival.
“We’re excited. We think it’s going to be a banner day for us,” said Friend Inc. Executive Director Sandra Wise. “It’s a great way for people to have a good time but at the same time, the best part is they are supporting a good cause, helping Friend raise funds so we can continue to provide services to families in need.”
Friend, Inc. Community Services is a multi-services social agency that individuals and families living in the Kutztown, Fleetwood and Brandywine school districts.
“We don’t have a tally together as of yet (as to how much was raised). The funds will be used for us to continue our programs such as pantry, case management and referrals to other agencies,” said Wise.
In comparison to previous FriendFest events, Wise said, “Last year was a down year so this year was a lot better.”
FriendFest organizers, volunteers, vendors and patrons enjoyed a warm, sunny day, in comparison to the past couple of weeks of bitter cold, snow and ice.
When asked about the weather, Wise said at the start of the event, “This is great! I think we’ve been blessed. I’m sure a lot of people who have cabin fever will be coming out today.”
“This is a great fundraiser. It’s good way for people to have a good time yet contribute to a really good cause,” said Friend Board of Directors Vice Chair Barbara Coffin, Kutztown. “We’ve been serving lots and lots of people this winter.”
Coffin said there’s been a lot of call for help with the food pantry, emergency fuel and rental assistance because of the economy.
“We really appreciate everyone coming out and contributing so we can continue to provide services,” said Coffin.
FriendFest 2014 was held on Feb. 22, at Beltzner Hall, Kutztown Fairgrounds, with two sessions from 3 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Music by Frog Holler and The Wallace Brothers, both Kutztown bands, raised spirits and many took the opportunity to dance.
Steve Schnell, Kutztown, has been coming to FriendFest almost every year since its creation. “I love it.”
He enjoys the music and variety of beers to try.
After the winter weather, that day’s sunshine and warmth, he said, “It’s nice, it helps you warm up a little bit. It’s been a long winter.”
Schnell said, “Friend is a fantastic organization so I’m happy to do anything to help them and have fun while doing it.”
FriendFest volunteer Laura Walter, of Kempton, a Kutztown University senior pharmacy student, said FriendFest is a great cause. “It’s a helping hand in the community.”
“We’re so blessed and we don’t realize it ... and there are people who are really struggling and this is an extra benefit for them,” said Walter.
She also recently helped in the food pantry.
“Just seeing the families come through and see how grateful they were for everything Friend does, it’s pretty awesome,” said Walter.
One of the vendors for the event, Robin Jasko, Kutztown, of Homesweet Homegrown Sauces, said, “This is a great opportunity for everyone to get together for a good time for a good cause,” listen to some great local music, taste wine and beer, find local vendors... “It’s always a good time and we’re happy to be here this year.”
Sarah Neuin, Bernville, liked that FriendFest made it easy to try a variety of beer and wine. “It’s not exclusive to one or the other, so you get more of a variety.”
She liked the social aspect of the event, that there were tall round tables set up where people could gather. “You can talk together and meet some new people.”
And she thinks it is nice that FriendFest benefits Friend, “We can have fun, socialize and give back to the community.”