Reflecting on the MPI giving circle, a celebration of the region’s diversity

The Minority Philanthropy Initiative had its inaugural giving circle event on Thursday, Oct. 28, at the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron. The MPI was presented by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County as a means of celebrating the region’s rich multi-cultural community and all the while rewarding some of its hard-working nonprofit organizations. Three nonprofit organizations walked away winners, receiving a total of $12,000 in grants.

Eat, drink, and be merry

The MPI event hosted a diverse array of caterers and vendors to keep the guests with full bellies and high spirits. Three caterers provided their unique styles and cultural flavors.

Chef Chris Catering of Port Huron provided a delicious six-cheese lobster mac, seared ribeye paired with asparagus and red skin mashed potatoes, and a maple-glazed salmon paired with a sweet potato puree. Phulkari Punjabi Kitchen, located in Madison Heights, made an appearance at the event, serving up their spicy Indian cuisine. And Bangkok Star, also of Port Huron, brought their Thai cuisine to round out the menu. The food from all three was exceptional.

Port Huron’s Daylicious Drinks & Treats and Southside Sweets provided the dessert. Daylicious, owned and operated by Daysha Woodley, kitchen coordinator for the new Thumb Coast Kitchens program, is a small business specializing in adult beverages, pastries, and cakes. Southside Sweets, which specializes in homemade cookies, cakes, and cupcakes, had their unique and absolutely divine sugar cookies on display for those wanting that fresh-out-of-grandma's-oven flavor. Southside Sweets is no stranger to events hosted by the Community Foundation, and their cookies are often seen sporting the logos of local sports teams or organizations. For this event, the cookies displayed the MPI logo with an edible frosting.

“From the variety of cuisine to the diversity in the crowd, it was an exciting and fun environment to engage in,” says Laura Burrell, head administrator for SONS Outreach, one of three nonprofits that were vying for an award. “To be one of the organizations who was randomly chosen as a finalist [and to then] receive an award was just a tremendous blessing. We are truly grateful for the Minority Philanthropy Initiative giving circle and the partners who brought this event to fruition.”

Performers shine

The night’s event was a multicultural celebration and the entertainment provided was indeed a reflection of that as well. The band from Port Huron Northern High School kicked things off with a solid drumline that had the crowd involved, cheering them on as they spun their sticks with style and flair and moved in rhythm to the beats. The scenery and the weather were great, as they performed outside where guests got to see the beautiful St. Clair River, the Blue Water Bridge, and the freighters that frequent the waterway.

Karma Entertainment LLC brought their musical entertainment as well. The first act was the Indian drummers Dhol Tasha, who made a grand entrance filling the halls of the Blue Water Convention Center with thunderous booms and rhythmic tapping of the drum. Dressed in red shirts with tan vests and hats, the drummers looked as good as they sounded. Their enthusiastic drumming warmed the guests up for the acts to follow. Spicing things up next was their belly dancer. Performing on stage dressed in the bedlah style, the female dancer moved ever so gracefully with twists and turns as the crowd watched with a hypnotic gaze. 

The Unity for Youth dancers, composed of young girls from the Restoration Christian Community Church (RC3), had their time to shine, and shine they did. One of the members was confined to a wheelchair for the evening, but that didn't stop her from performing with the same amount of passion as the rest of her group. It was definitely something to see.

A surprise twist

As the night drew to a close, the cheerful guests cast their votes for the nonprofit of their choosing. Before the voting started, there was a moment for each nonprofit to give a three-minute speech on why they should be chosen for the funding. The three nonprofits in the running for the grants were SONS Outreach, RC3, and Martha’s House: Home of Me Time Ministry. After each speech was given, they all received a hearty round of applause from those in attendance.

Guests were then asked to cast their votes by dropping a smooth stone given upon entry into one of three ballot boxes. After all the votes were counted, there would be one first place winner . . . or would there? In a strange turn of events, there were two first place winners and a runner-up. SONS Outreach and RC3 both walked away with $5,000 in first-place grant-funding due to a tie in voting. Martha’s House finished third, receiving $2000. “I am so excited to be chosen. I wasn't even going to participate, thinking that I’d never win anything like that,” says Martha Moore, owner of Martha’s House

“We enjoyed the opportunity to meet and network with such a diverse group of people and organizations, and we’re appreciative of the $5,000 grant prize,” says Tony Miller, director of the Unity for Youth program at RC3. “It will support our efforts to spread and cultivate love and unity in our community.”