Few foods strike our imagination and tweak our passions like chocolate. What kid hasn’t fantasized about lying under the endless flow of chocolate that enrobes candy bars? You know, you’ve seen the in TV commercials for Snickers or Milky Ways.
Such is the lure of one of Texoma’s annual charity events, CASA’s Chocolate Indulgence. CASA of Grayson County, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, provides volunteers to children who are in foster care to advocate for their needs.
The program is funded by grants, donations, federal and state governments, and by their own fund raising activities. Chocolate Indulgence, held each year in February, is the group’s principal fund raising effort
“This coming February 2019 will be our 21st year of Chocolate Indulgence,” said CASA’s executive director Natalie Jamison. “We have a sit down dinner or buffet; we have music and dancing, a live auction and a silent auction, and of course, chocolate. Last year, we started a VIP poker room, where guests pay to play for prizes that are only available in the poker room.”
But what about the chocolate?
Jamison said that chocolate has been part of the CASA event since in started in 1998.
“We order many different kinds of chocolates, and it’s free,” said she. “We now have two tables where people can come and taste the different kinds of chocolate offered, and we have two chocolate fountains. It’s a fun way to indulge.”
Staging an event this large — CASA expect 600 or more guests at the Hilton Garden Inn for the 21st edition — requires, for all purposes, almost a year of preparation by employees and volunteers.
“We usually start planning a few weeks after the most recent Indulgence,” said Jamison. “It’s a monster event. Just getting the auction items takes so much time and energy. Every organization that donates items work on a different schedule. They consider your requests at different time, so we have to adjust our calendar to their schedules.”
Then there are venue considerations. The ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn is currently the only place large enough to handle Chocolate Indulgence. The space is in demand, so CASA has to work around any possible conflicts to secure a booking around the Valentine’s Day date they traditionally prefer.
The Hilton will handle the dinner and alcohol, but the chocolate is still the responsibility of the CASA volunteers.
“By special request and approval, the Hilton allows us to bring in our own chocolate,” Jamison said. “We have our own vendors who supply our chocolate and toffee, and we buy what we need from them. We try to go above and beyond to make sure our guests get the best.”
To accomplish this, the search for chocolate ranges from East Texas to West Virginia to Switzerland. Teuscher, headquartered in Zurich, provides the highly popular Champagne truffles, and Mary of Puddin Hill, a Palestine confectioner whose roots reach back to 1839 provides the toffee.
“The toffee is a real favorite,” Jamison said. “We always order extra, but we always run out.”
The flavored chocolates and other specialties come from Rose City Chocolate of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Jamison said that she will order more than 60 pounds of chocolate and 10 pounds of toffee for the event.
“I hope people realize how much time and effort goes into this, and how much people care about our guests really enjoying themselves,” she said. “It is a fundraiser, a way for us to get money that is desperately needed to keep our operations going. We take a lot of pride in seeing that things go well. We love doing it, but it is a lot of hard work. We’re very blessed to have people in the community who volunteer and donate every year.”
Chocolate Indulgent 2019 is scheduled for Feb. 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn and Jamison said it would be a masquerade. A masquerade? Maybe you could go as a Hershey Bar, with or without nuts; that would be appropriate.
Edward Southerland is a feature writer for Best of Texoma. For more information, visit BestofTexoma.com or www.facebook.com/BestOfTexoma.