Benton House Sets Sights on Summer

By Casey Cora on June 19, 2013 9:28am 

Slideshow
 Art Bowl, Hunger Walk and summer party to raise money for food pantry program.
Benton House Summer
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BRIDGEPORT — Benton House, the neighborhood’s century-old settlement home, will be the epicenter of can-do civic pride this month, playing host to a handful of events to raise money for its food pantry program.

Two of the social resource agency’s events are entwined with Version Fest, the week-long community festival taking place in various locations around Bridgeport.

The first is the Art Bowl, a project started last year by Dan Pugh, a ceramic artist who co-founded the Bridgeport Citizens Group.

Here’s how it works: Pugh has recruited 50-some Chicago artists to donate about 350 custom-made, artistic ceramic bowls for the event. The bowls will be filled with homemade soups and chili cooked by Bridgeport residents.

For a $15 plus the donation of a canned good, guests can enjoy the soups and take home a unique gift. Without the canned good donation, it’s $20.

“It’s purely a volunteer effort. Everybody spends a little money and we’re able to make a whole lot of money for Benton House,” Pugh said.

The Art Bowl takes place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Benton House gymnasium, 3034 S. Gratten Ave.

Last year, the event raised about $1,500 for the Benton House food pantry.

The 106-year-old agency was originally established as a nursery for children whose mothers worked in nearby factories, then later grew into the "House of Happiness," which hosted programs for older children. Today, it’s evolved into a nonprofit group aimed at providing immediate needs, education, sustainability and civic engagement. 

The food pantry program is now hosted in the Ramova Room, where each week the room is transformed into a makeshift grocery store. It’s an effort to give food pantry patrons a choice in what food they’ll take, rather than picking up a box filled with pre-selected items.

On Saturday, the group hosts its third annual SummerFest, an outdoor party complete with two stages of live music, beer and wine and local food vendors offering a “taste of Bridgeport."

“Three years ago we created this event. It was going to be a one-time thing but it was so fun and so successful we continued,” said Peter Zagorski, of Logan Square, a volunteer.

Vendors include Connie’s Pizza, Impallaria Bakery, Gio’s Café, Great American Cheese Collection, Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, Henry Kaminski Meats, Taqueria La Mexicana, Mangia Fresca, Polo Café, Pleasant House Bakery, and Spence Wagner & Sons.

Zagorski said the music will be “pretty much nonstop” on two stages. The lineup includes Erin Edmister and Three Tons, The King Louie Band, Michael the Younger, Alex Colston featuring Jess Selldana, Natalie & Noah Lande Duo, The Additives, Dan Shaughnessy, Conundrum and Brooke & The Nice Things.

Raffle tickets will be sold for a handful of prizes, which include tickets to sporting events, gift bags stuffed with items from local merchants and hotel stays.

And don’t worry, Blackhawks fans — organizers have secured a 12-by-9 screen for watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the game will also be broadcast in the downstairs Ramova Room.

SummerFest takes place 6 p.m.-midnight Saturday at 3034 S. Gratten Ave.

The suggested admission donation is $15, which incudes food and entertainment. Tickets are available at the Benton House website.

Saturday’s event also doubles as the closing party for Version Fest and the kickoff for Hunger Walk, a program of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

A team of volunteers from Benton House are rallying to gather a local team to walk with them during the Hunger Walk 5K, which kicks off June 29 at Soldier Field.

For every person who walks with the Benton House team, $12 is credited toward the group’s food pantry account. The team is also accepting donations on its Hunger Walk page. For every $5 raised, the Benton House food pantry can feed three families for a week.

Already, they've raised more than $2,200 ,and a partnership with Nana Organic, where diners can add donations to their restaurant bill, is expected to help raise even more.

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