Benefit dinners are a great way to help a family in a medical emergency. First you need to locate a facility to have the dinner at. A local community center, civic center or some such facility will often work out perfectly. Call several and see if you can get them to donate an evening for the dinner with a damage deposit that will be refundable if the facility is left in the same condition it is found in (or better).
Talk with the family and set a date that works for them and the facility. Find out exactly what the family’s needs are and be prepared to tell people should they inquire. If the family is in the midst of medical procedures they may not be able to actually make the dinner but it is still important to keep them informed.
Arrange for food donations by various churches and other community groups as well as individuals who might be willing to donate. Usually spaghetti menus are at the top of the list for a benefit dinner though any easy menu is acceptable.
Arrange for several people to be able to help at the dinner and help in advertising. See if your local paper will run a free ad for the dinner. Print out flyer’s and have some teens put them up at businesses (make sure to ask owners first) and library bulletin boards etc. Share enough information on the flyer’s and in the ad that people want to help without compromising too much personal information about the family. Call churches and ask if they could announce the dinner during their announcement time on the Sunday morning prior to the dinner. Most benefit dinners charge a minimum cost of between $5 and $15 per person for the dinner with a cap at no more than $35 to $40 for an entire family of say 4 people or more. Your pricing will depend on the menu being served and the area that you live in.
On the night of the dinner plan to set up at least two hours prior to the event. Set out the poster or pictures of the family near the entrance and have someone prepared to answer questions regarding the family’s needs.
Designate someone to take the money and make change.
Plan to have one or more hosts or hostesses to assist people through lines and help with seating arrangements.
Plan for “bus boys” and such for easy clean up after the meals.
You can either have self serve lines with servers filling the plates or you can have people seated and have designated waiters or waitresses delivering food and water, juice or coffee and tea to the customers.
Play some soft music in the back ground and keep things simple and easy flowing.
If any family members are able to attend the dinner place them at a specific table and have someone assisting in controlling the flow of traffic so that they do not become worn out. Offer lots of support and help and comfort to the family.
Keep menu’s simple and easy (a typical menu is spaghetti, french bread and a salad).
Involve as many people as you can.
Have a poster or some pictures of the family with a brief explanation of the hardship near the entry to the benefit dinner
Often church youth groups or scouting groups are more than willing to donate their time and help at such events
.Consider setting up a website to help the family and increase donations.
Consider having a few teens holding posters outside of the dinner to bring in more customers.
Make sure to plan a clean up crew for cleaning your facility so that you can get your deposit back.
Do not give out contact information regarding the family but rather have people sign a guest book or some such item and indicate if they are interested in helping in some small way. Guests can leave their name, phone number and ways they can help much easier and safer for the family this way!