Food, glorious food — and all for a good cause

What’s good for the restaurant business was ultimately good for lower-income children Wednesday as hundreds passed through downtown eateries to sample their cuisine in support of Glendale Healthy Kids.

Those who paid $25 for a wristband attend A Taste of Downtown Glendale had access to 28 restaurants along Brand Boulevard that offered menu samples as a way to make an impression on a potentially new client base, while at the same time support the cause of a nonprofit that connects lower-income children to free medical services.

“It’s two in one,” said Michel Schoucair, general manager of Carousel Restaurant, as he prepared plates of hummus, chicken sandwiches and parsley salad.

Across the street, Betty Porto was busy overseeing a steady output of meat pies and cheese rolls at her popular bakery.

“We do it because we want to be part of the community,” she said. “I believe in this organization.”

The event is the one of the biggest fundraisers for Glendale Healthy Kids, providing nearly a tenth of its overall budget each year, organizers said.

Little more than an hour into Wednesday’s event, ticket sales had brought in $45,000 and were on track to exceed a goal of $50,000 — or about 8% of the nonprofit’s budget — by night’s end, according to Camille Levee, Glendale Healthy Kids executive director.

“We’ve been running out of tickets,” she said. “That’s a good thing.”

Raising funds for the organization has taken on renewed vigor in recent months as executives continue their drive to establish a $1 million endowment that would provide a cushion against economic downturns that can have a significant impact on smaller, leaner nonprofits like Glendale Healthy Kids.

Almost all of its budget is funded through private donations and grants from foundations. Very little is received in the way of government grants, according to the nonprofit’s annual reports.

While hitting the $1 million mark is years away, it was clear on Wednesday that Glendale Healthy Kids can still bank on the popularity of the tasty downtown fundraiser, now in its eighth year.

“I definitely look forward to it every year now,” said Shena Johnston, who was holding two plates of potato balls and meat pies from Porto’s Bakery — one for her, and one for her 11-year-old daughter. “I mean we’re not even three restaurants in and I don’t know how we’re going to keep eating all this food.”

Bands from all three local high schools provided the live music as people like Johnston sampled the fare from restaurants located roughly between Lexington Avenue and Broadway. Those with bright-orange wristbands had their choice of everything from coffee to small sandwiches to frozen yogurt, pizza and steak.

The wide array of options had some people strategizing, committing to just the restaurants they had always been curious about, but hadn’t yet visited.

“I’m definitely going to Daphne’s [Greek Cafe] and Zono Sushi, because I’ve never been,” Mark Carrol said. “I know, Greek and Japanese. It’s an interesting combo, but we’ll see how it goes.”


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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