Home on the range – Eye-popping kitchen tour raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters | TheUnion.com

Home on the range – Eye-popping kitchen tour raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Are you building a home or thinking about remodeling your kitchen? Would you like to take a leisurely tour through some of Nevada County’s most beautiful custom-designed kitchens, all in support of one of the area’s most beloved nonprofit agencies?

Sounds good, doesn’t it? If you’re looking for inspiration or just a few fresh ideas for your kitchen project, this is your chance to get a first-hand look at the state-of-the-art in kitchen design.

The Designer Kitchen Tour is an annual event in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the local program that provides grownup friends for children of single-parent homes.

This year’s fund-raiser features a tour of six local kitchens designed by Kathleen Kennedy, CKD, a nationally-recognized certified kitchen designer. Twenty dollars in advance (or $25 on the day of the event) buys you a ticket and a map to the six homes. All of the money will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

At one of the kitchens (we won’t tell which one!) you’ll meet Chef Antonio Ayestaran of the Alta Sierra Country Club, who will reveal the secrets of one of his signature dishes, “Grand Marnier Prawns with Asparagus Spears, Diced Tomatoes and Toasted Gruyere Cheese.”

He will also answer any questions about cooking or kitchens that tour-goers may have.

Kitchen designer Kathleen Kennedy has won numerous National Kitchen Builders Association and National Association of the Remodeling Industry awards for her designs. She has long been involved in supporting worthy community services. In recent years, she has focused her efforts on Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“It’s a good cause,” says Kennedy, “and it’s good business. People who go on kitchen tours are people who are thinking about building a new kitchen. They see my designs, fall in love with them, and off we go. At the same time all the money from the tour goes to Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

That’s the motto of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It’s the simple truth, says Dena Valin, executive director of the program. “It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in the life of a child.”

Though Big Brothers Big Sisters receives money from a variety of sources, in any given year as much as 70 percent of the budget is derived from community donations raised at events like this year’s Kitchen Tour. Since 1981 the agency has matched over 500 ‘Littles’ with volunteer ‘Bigs.’ At any given time Big Brothers Big Sisters is helping 60 to 75 children.

That’s how volunteer Bonnie Garcia looks at her role as a Big Sister. Garcia is the eldest of eight children, and at times felt overwhelmed by her family’s turbulent dynamics. Fortunately, she was lucky enough to find a mentor, a next-door neighbor who stepped in to be her unofficial “big sister.”

“Whenever things at home got to be a bit much,” says Garcia, “I could wander over to Carol’s house. We’d sit down and talk, and she would joke and sympathize and offer me little bits of advice. I would always leave with my spirits lifted, and with a better idea of how to handle what was going on at home. Now I want to pass Carol’s wisdom and love along to another little girl.”

Garcia, who works for Fidelity National Title in Grass Valley, enlisted in the Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based program, in which the volunteers go to their charges’ schools to offer guidance, support and friendship. She became a Big Sister to a little girl named Brenda, who at the time was 10 years old and struggling a little bit in her adjustment to school. Garcia and Brenda generally spend one lunch hour together a week.

“It’s amazing to me how little goes so far,” Garcia continues. “Sometimes I just listen. It’s very powerful what just that much can mean to a child. First of all, it tells them that they’re worth listening to, and that someone cares. That can make a big difference in a child’s life.”

“My job is to bring fun into their lives!”

“I don’t even look at it as a formal Big Brother relationship,” says local teacher and Big Brother Walt Webb, who has not one, but two “Littles” assigned to him. “These guys are my friends. I look forward to hanging out with them.”

Webb is assigned to Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based program, in which the ‘Bigs’ go to the homes of their ‘Littles’ on the weekends and take them on outings. Webb’s charges are two boisterous and intelligent boys, Billy and Christian, both from single-mom households. He’s been taking them on weekend outings since they were 5 years of age. They are now 11. (Billy’s father has since moved to the Grass Valley area, but is supportive of Webb’s friendship with his son.)

“I spend anywhere from four to 10 hours a month with them. I don’t see myself as playing any sort of big parental role. Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ So what happens when I get together with the boys is that we become children, me included! We just try to have a great time together. My goal is to keep it playful and fun.”

“It came down to this,” says Webb. “I wanted to look back on my life and know that I’d done something good. I believe that’s how you justify your existence. If you can say you’ve helped someone in their life, that’s how you’ve justified your own. It takes some commitment, but the thing is, once you take that first step it begins to pay off immediately. These two kids have become my friends, it’s as simple as that. And I wouldn’t have them if I hadn’t taken that first step to get involved.”

Fred Nichols is a Grass Valley writer who is known as “The Scribbler.”

The tour takes place on Saturday, May 7, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You may purchase tickets ahead of time at the Taylor Michaels store next to Albertson’s in the Fowler Shopping Center on Nevada City Highway.

On the day of the event tickets will be available at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 741 Maltman Drive or the Alta Sierra Real Estate office at 10015 Alta Sierra Drive.

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