Charity Feast Offers a Taste of Pig Wings

The one ingredient missing from the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council's Thanksgiving Ghost Dinner is the meal.

The charity, which serves meals to homebound residents, is selling $50 tickets to a no-show feast, to be held at no particular time, at no particular place. No valet or voucher parking is available, and entree choices include air sandwiches, chicken lips and pig wings.

But a $50 non-entry fee will pay for meals for one homebound resident for three weeks, according to the council, which runs meals-on-wheels programs throughout the Valley.

"People can get dressed up and don't have to worry about going out," said Barry Smedberg, executive director of the council. "In fact, they don't even have to bother getting dressed up."

This is the second year the council has mailed out invitations to the feast, Smedberg said. The RSVP card has two choices--Yes, to not attend, or Yes, to donate instead of not attending. "No is not an option," said Smedberg. "Yes, I'm not going to attend is."

Those who don't receive an invitation are free to not come anyway, and can contact the council to pay for the privilege.

The idea for the non-event came to Smedberg during other fund-raising dinners. "What happened is, I talked to a bunch of folks who said it's a shame we have to have a dinner to raise money," Smedberg said.

By year's end, the charity says it will have served more than 20,000 meals and hopes to boost that number to 25,000. Smedberg said that will cost about $65,000--far more than the $4,500 it raised at the event last year. Clients pay $4.50 for two meals a day, he said. Even at that price, said Smedberg, some can't pay.

That's where the fund-raisers come in. Smedberg said he wants the donations to be as painless as possible--no idle cocktail-hour chatter, and no fattening meals. "It can be a very romantic evening, sitting by the fire, thinking about all the people you're feeding."

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