One of Aiken’s biggest one-night fundraisers was back in business Monday evening, with hundreds of diners, dozens of volunteers and and an assortment of restaurants on board for Celebrity Waiter Night, in support of Children’s Place.
The annual event, which underwent a huge reduction in scope in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, had in-person and takeout participation alike, with a list of venues including Fuse, Blue Collard, Casa Bella, Tailgate Tavern, The Village Cafe and several other possibilities.
Monday evening brought “a great turnout,” in the words of Jamie Swartz, a shift manager on duty at Grumpy’s Sports Pub. She recalled that her first exposure to Celebrity Waiter Night was in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, when all orders were handled on a takeout basis, with curbside service.
The 2021 version, she said, was “completely different, but in a good way.” Service was conducted in buffet style.
“It’s going great,” said Nora Mahfuz, a food and beverage manager for Rose Hill, as she was helping direct traffic at The Stables.
“All the celebrity waiters and the hosts have really stepped in to help a lot. We have someone assigned to each person, so it’s a little less running around for them, and … they get to talk to tables and try to get people in for charity.”
The menu, Mahfuz said, is slightly condensed in comparison with the norm. “All of the starters, salads, mains and some of the desserts are all on our regular menu. They’re just a little abridged version, basically. We also have live music, and we also have live music when we’re open normally, all the time.”
Children’s Place, the event’s beneficiary, aims “to help grow strong and resilient children and families, creating safer and healthier communities,” as explained on its website. Key values are listed as integrity, respect, excellence, teamwork, honor, stewardship and play.
Realtor Janice Nix, part of the crew on duty at Newberry Hall, said the 2021 event represented “a recovery from COVID.”
She added, “People are excited … but it’s the first time since the COVID bug came out that we can get out and celebrate and try to raise some money for the children. We weren’t able to meet our goals last year, just as so many people and businesses have suffered. We cannot run this program without the contributions from our children, and in this, we try to provide a fun way for them to contribute.”
Nix, who is also a Children’s Place board member, said she has been on board for the annual event for about eight years.
Among the dozens of other sponsors for this year’s event were such organizations as Aiken Pest Control, Security Federal Bank, The Lucky Pecan Store and such individuals as Dr. Julie Ziegler, Andrew Siders and Barb Gould Uskup.
Among diners at The Stables was North Augusta resident Cathy Shaw, who noted that she has attended the event over the course of several years (except for 2020), at a different location each time, “as a guest of my dear friend Newkirk Barnes.”
She added, “She always organizes our dinner for the event every year and it’s now become a tradition. Children’s Place is a wonderful asset in our community and I love how the citizens of Aiken County and restaurateurs of Aiken come together for this special night to help raise funds and awareness for them.”
“You always want to help your community, and they’re our next, upcoming generation,” said Sherry Corbett, helping represent Wayne’s Automotive and Towing Center, one of Celebrity Waiter Night’s sponsors.
“We grew up in the community, so we’ve been giving back … because that’s the next generation that’s going to lead the community.”
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