Sweet success: Annual fundraiser serves up smiles

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SOUTHPOINTE – This was a preview of heaven.


Twenty-eight delectable, decadent dessert selections, concocted by 28 groups, consumed by 1,000-plus people, at one marvelous event for one marvelous cause.


Oh, and four “celebrity” judges.


The appropriately named Sweet Sunday Cafe & Auctions served up a lot of smiles Sunday afternoon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe. Bellyaches were likely, though no one was bellyaching about the 19th annual event, which features entertainment for all ages, other kids activities, entree foods, appealing auction items and a heap of help for the City Mission.


“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and a great family event. It’s wonderful to see people supporting us,” said Shelley Karl, event manager and manager of development at the City Mission, which provides aid, food, shelter and medical attention to the area’s homeless at 84 W. Wheeling St., Washington.


She said last year’s Sweet Sunday netted $90,000 for her organization. This year’s figure has yet to be determined.


Sunday was a sweet time for many, including the celebrity judges – as long as you limited your intake. I take issue with the “celebrity” designation, though, because I was among the four.


State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Eighty Four; spouses Chris and Ashley Duff, winners of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” show; and I sampled the 28 desserts and determined winners in three categories of those who made them: Youth, Amateur and Professional.


The Duffs had done this last year, and advised newcomers Neuman and me to take mini-bites of each. It was difficult to imagine that at the beginning, when each of us had a sample of the 28 placed on our table – 112 yummy goodies within a long arm’s reach. But the two of us heeded the voices of experience.


“Anyone going into diabetic shock?” cracked Harlan Shober, Washington County commissioner and a volunteer for the event, after we had completed sampling the seven entries in the first category, Youth.


We did not overindulge and, ultimately, survived. I even had lunch afterward.


Sweet Sunday ran from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Cecil Township hotel and drew a crowd that was significant but may have been curtailed by the weather.


It takes place the Sunday after that chocoholic holiday, Valentine’s Day, and is the culmination of five months of work for Karl, co-chairs William Naumoff and Patty Stocke, and other City Mission staffers.


“City Mission does a great job in making the community better,” said Neuman, who has attended three other Sweet Sundays. “This is one of the highlights of the year because it brings people together. And it doesn’t hurt to taste great desserts on a Sunday afternoon.”


Want to be a judge again?


“Absolutely.”


Selecting winners was a challenge for the celebrities, who by consensus opted for: Chocolate Covered Oreos, LifePoint Students, Youth; Creamy Lemon Hearts, Mission Kitchen, Amateur; and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Gnash Cup, Country Confections Chocolates, Professional.


Participants, paying $4 per ticket in advance and $5 at the door, also voted, selecting first, second and third place in each category. Their choices, 1 through 3:


• Youth – Chocolate Covered Bacon, ARK Youth Group First Baptist Church of Monongahela; Buckeyes, Chartiers Crossroads Church Youth; Rainbow Cakes, First Christian Church of Monongahela Youth.


• Amateur – White Almond Wedding Cake with Raspberry Creme Filling, L.A. Sweets; Creamy Lemon Hearts, Mission Kitchen; Chocolate Covered Fortune Cookies, FROG – First Baptist Church of Monongahela.


• Professional – Apple and Cherry Strudel, The Original Strudel Factory; Oreo Creme Pie, Eat ’n Park; Dark Chocolate Raspberry Gnash Cup, Country Confections Chocolates.


Ticket-holders also selected ARK Youth Group as having the Best Decorated Table.


But as far as the City Mission is concerned, blessed are all the dessert-makers. Once again, they were a prime force in helping Sweet Sunday live up to its name.


“I look forward to this. I can’t wait,” Ashley Duff said.


Neither can her husband.


“People can come out,” Chris said, “and enjoy sweets, and the money goes to a good cause. There’s nothing wrong with any of that.”


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