Local Chefs Shine in YMCA’s Dining by the Bay Fundraiser

The first Dining by the Bay fundraising dinner for the Door County YMCA was held on May 23 at Maxwelton Braes in Baileys Harbor. It was a change from the previous 17 years of annual fundraising events known as Dining Around the Door.

“Dining Around the Door was a great event that will hold a special place in our hearts here at the Y,” said communications director Kelsey Dorner. “We felt it was time to refresh the event, so we looked at what is popular in Door County dining right now. Dining by the Bay brings together delicious local food and drinks, but this time as a seated, five-course meal instead of a buffet-style meal.”

The dinner featured a signature cocktail from Hatch Distilling Co. and courses prepared by seven local chefs who donated their time and talents: Katie Gill from Heirloom Cafe & Provisions, Karl Bradley and Tonda Gagliardo from Thyme Cuisine, Sara Doherty from Roots Inn & Kitchen, Matt Chambas and Jamie Mead from Door County Underground, and Jacqueline Soukup from Two Spoons Bakehouse.

“Matt and Jamie [of Door County Underground] really spearheaded this event,” said YMCA CEO Tom Beerntsen, “and were in for an incredible experience.” The Chambas and Mead were approached in February to assist in bringing the event to life, and since then, they have worked enthusiastically to coordinate the food and course planning in a way that highlights local fare and ingredients. The five courses incorporated locally foraged ingredients, fish and pork sourced from Door County, plus locally grown produce.

Hatch Distillery owner Chris Roedl created the signature cocktail using Harbor Dog, a rumlike spirit. Photo by Aleah Kidd.

“Working with all of the chefs was amazing!” Dorner said. “One would think it would have been a little difficult to coordinate with seven chefs going into the Door County season, but it was one of the smoothest fundraisers we have done. I think this speaks to the dedication and expertise of all of the chefs.”

The Door County YMCAs have been integral community hubs since the early 1990s. “We currently serve over 8,500 members,” said Beerntsen, “which means that every third person you pass in the county is a member.” One hundred tickets were sold for the fundraising dinner, and many longtime supporters and staff were present. Dan Tjernagel, Sturgeon Bay School superintendent, was the live auctioneer between courses.

The funds raised provide essential support to several key programs, including the Door County YMCA Summer Foods Program, which supplies between 25,000 and 30,000 lunches during the summer – more than 400 per day. Last year, Door County reported that, on average, 56 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The food program was launched in 2012 to ensure that children would continue to receive free, healthful lunches during the three months of the year when they’re not available in local schools.

The funds also support the Membership for All Program, which makes the Y facilities available to everyone, no matter their financial circumstances. “The YMCA is an income-based membership, which levels the playing field. Nobody knows who pays what,” Beerntsen said. According to the 2018 State of the Y, around 1,200 of the members receive some degree of financial assistance. “Door County is not a wealthy county, and there are needs in our communities which are not always apparent,” Beerntsen said. “You should be comforted to know that we are working hard to make certain the Y is a place where everyone is welcomed.”

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