story by Emily Hilley-Sierzchula, special to The City Wire
Arkansas is almost 8,500 miles from Kenya, yet more than 375 people showed up at the fifth annual Winetopia Friday night (Oct. 11) to support Restore Humanity, a nonprofit that helps run a children's home there.
Pratt Place Barn in Fayetteville hosted the sold-out event and was also a sponsor.
"The Barn has generously hosted the event all five times," said Sarah Fennel, Restore Humanity founder.
Fennel expected to raise more than $60,000, which was last year's Winetopia earnings.
For a $75 ticket partygoers enjoyed sampling a wide array of wine donated by Glazer's and food from Bordinos, Cafe Rue Orleans, Greenhouse Grille and Catering Unlimited. A silent auction raised additional funds. DJ Shortfuze spun records with a mix of music for the event.
The pièce de résistance of the event was a live painting by Fayetteville artist Matt Miller, known for his works with bold colors and thick textures on canvas. Miller's painting, valued at $2,500, was part of the silent auction.
"It's pretty clear what Winetopia is: drink your wine," Fennel said.
The event started as a partnership with Glazer's, a beverage distributing company that offered to donate all the wine for the event.
"This event supports the 17 kids in our children's home for an entire year," Fennel explained.
Restore Humanity also offers outreach assistance to Kenyans, which includes paying school fees for children.
Fennel is in Kenya four months out of the year, and the remaining months she is raising money for the youngsters in the children's home. "It doesn't run without the help of my Kenyan partners, who donated the land and building and now run the home," Fennel said. "I can put on an event, but taking care of 17 kids all day ..."
Fennel founded Restore Humanity in 2006 after volunteering in South Africa in 2005.
While working with AIDS patients, orphans and abused children, she saw that "the majority of the country was living in poverty with no electricity, no running water, and no indoor plumbing," said Fennel on her website. "She was forever changed and knew that she had to do something."
"We got a lot of support. I'm really thankful," she said.