By Samantha Melamed
Your special event doesn't have to be a benefit to benefit others. After your event is over, your leftover food, flowers and decor can still help other people--it just takes a little extra planning.
Just think: Corporate events usually involve countless hours of work and lots of dollars, and then much of the results--food, flowers, decor--often get tossed into dumpsters at the end of the evening. (According to nonprofit organization City Harvest, about 50 million pounds of good, edible food are thrown away each year by New York City food businesses.) But this doesn't have to be the case. Many nonprofit and charitable organizations take donations, giving your handiwork a second life. Your leftover flowers can brighten the day of a nursing home resident. Or your custom-made costume can add color to a theater production for underprivileged children.
Here's one important thing to remember: There's no risk for you, because you assume no liability for donations (thanks to the 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act). And you can feel good knowing your extra food, flowers, paper goods, costumes and sets are going into the hands of people who can use them. (You might get some good PR, too.)
We also found two catering companies that have social missions in addition to providing tasty treats.
So here are some great resources to help you help someone else:
LEFTOVER FOOD IDEAS
What they do: City Harvest feeds hungry New Yorkers by rescuing unused food from catered events, restaurants and bakeries and delivering it to soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other organizations.
How you can help: At least a day before your event, call City Harvest to schedule a pickup. Or, call to schedule a regular pickup from your company cafeteria, catering company or restaurant.
Who to contact: Check City Harvest's Web site at www.cityharvest.org for safe storage and packaging guidelines for unused food, and call Scott Bell at 917.351.8700 for information and arrangements.
Rock and Wrap It Up!
What they do: The nonprofit volunteer organization collects food from catered events and delivers it to local shelters and soup kitchens. In more than 400 cities, Rock and Wrap It Up! collects unused perishables and cans from backstage catering, from corporate and school cafeterias and from catered events.
How you can help: Include a contractual obligation in your catering contract or in a letter to your caterer, stating that unused food will be donated to local soup kitchens, and that Rock and Wrap It Up! will make the arrangements. And, call Rock and Wrap It Up! at least a few days in advance to arrange for pickup.
Who to contact: Call Rock and Wrap It Up! founder Syd Mandelbaum or executive director Aimee Holtzman at 877.691.FOOD, or browse the organization's Web site, www.rockandwrapitup.org.
What they do: A catering company with a social mission, Urban Horizons trains apprentices from low-income backgrounds to become chefs, bakers and caterers. The students, and the chefs who train them, provide full-service catering for events, and giving valuable education and job opportunities to people in need.
How you can help: Have Urban Horizons cater an event, provide baked goods or prepared foods for a corporate meeting.
Who to contact: Call the company's catering department at 718.839.1160 or browse through their Web site at www.uhfoodco.com.
What they do: Nonprofit Greyston operates on a simple plan: create elaborate desserts and donate all profits to the Greyston Foundation for community development and social improvement. The company is also committed to offering employment opportunities to underprivileged individuals.
How you can help: Order one of Greyston's towering cakes for a special event or send their tarts, pies or brownies as corporate gifts.
Who to contact: Call the bakery at 800.BUY.CAKE, or order through their Web site at www.buycake.com.
LEFTOVER FLOWER IDEAS
There are more than 20 nonprofit nursing homes in the five boroughs. Most of them have activities and recreation departments, but they don't have much cash for decor or party goods.
How you can help: Instead of throwing away flower arrangements, paper goods or decorations left over from an event, call a nursing home at least a day in advance to arrange a donation. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to deliver the items yourself, but here are three homes that are centrally located in Manhattan:
Greater Harlem Nursing Home
30 West 138th Street: Call director of activities and volunteers Adaego Bates at 212.690.7400 x230. Donations can be dropped off 24 hours a day.
Amsterdam Nursing Home
1060 Amsterdam Avenue: Call director of recreation Shari Kober-Mealy at 212.678.2600. Donations must be delivered between 9 AM and 8 PM.
Bialystoker Home and Infirmary for the Aged
228 East Broadway: Call director of recreation Katarina Belko at 212.475.7755. Donations can be delivered 24 hours a day.
LEFTOVER DECOR AND COSTUME IDEAS
Nonprofit Theater Companies
New York City has a host of small theater companies that operate on shoestring budgets. Many troupes are in need of costumes, scenery and props, and can adapt used equipment for their performances.
How you can help: If you are building customized sets, or using props or costumes that you'll throw away, consider calling a nonprofit group to offer your leftover materials. If you call a day or two in advance, these groups can usually travel to a local event to pick up clothing and equipment:
A Regional Theatre Group Inc.
What they do: This Bronx-based group is an Off Off Broadway and community theater, with an emphasis on community involvement and opportunities for both new and experienced artists.
Who to contact: Call Ray L'Dera at 212.229.7556 or 718.585.7319. The group can retrieve any items immediately after an event.
AIDS Theatre Project
What they do: AIDS Theatre Project members run writing workshops and educational theater, and perform original works based on the experiences of company members, all of whom are HIV positive.
Who to contact: Call artistic director J. Drew Picard at 646.366.9388. The group can retrieve items either the night of an event or soon afterward.
Attic Salt Theatre Company
What they do: Attic Salt members create workshops, plays and children's theater designed to educate and to bring theater to people who wouldn't otherwise experience it.
Who to contact: Call Jeff Catanese at 212.330.7100. The group can pick up items immediately after an event.
By Samantha Melamed