It's worth a trip over to the Brightleaf section of downtown this Thursday to stop into a wine-and-chocolates tasting at Parker & Otis, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
This is not simply a chance for gastric goodness (though I can vouch for the Lake Champlain Chocolates P&O sells, having had a chance once to visit their factory in Burlington, Vt. years ago). No, this tasting is offered hand-in-hand as a fundraiser for Communities in Schools of Durham's backpack program.
If you haven't heard of this before, the Bayer CropScience Food Backpack program sends packs full of food from Durham's Food Bank home with 150 students each week at Burton and Eastway Elementary here in the Bull City. This year, the program will give out almost 40,000 pounds of food -- up significantly from 15,000 last year.
Eastway, housed in a new elementary school off Alston Ave., has the highest free & reduced lunch poverty rate in the DPS system -- yet has been turned around from a low-performing school to one of the most-improved schools in the state, making expected progress on the AYP measures each of the last two years. (Tell this to our friends in Garner who are fighting Wake's school board on the grounds that WCPSS is busing too many poor, black students from Southeast Raleigh into their little town.)
As Eastway's principal Star Sampson (just named DPS' principal of the year) notes, "Children can't learn well when they're hungry. We can tell when they come to school and they haven't eaten. They're not motivated, their energy level is low, they might even be angry. When they have eaten, they're happy, motivated - they almost skip on their way to class. So we say: Thank you, on behalf of the students at Eastway Elementary School, for providing food so our kids can keep on learning."
The $5 ticket charge for the tasting will be donated in its entirety to the CIS of Durham's backpack program, as will 10% of all sales of wine and chocolate during the event. A short presentation on CIS of Durham's work will happen at 5:30.