Rushing to dinner

Thanksgiving came a few days early on the banks of Lake Union at Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club. On Nov. 20, while much of the city navigated through thick fog and frosty temperatures, 90-some Seattleites gathered for a Thanksgiving feast in support of family, friends and an international good cause.

The dinner celebration, which takes place the Sunday before Thanks-giving, began as a small gathering of friends and, five years later, has evolved into a notable fundraiser and a brilliant good time.

"We spend so much time with our friends and colleagues, but when it comes time for the holidays, many people pack up and go away," says Jonathan Van Valin, a founding father of the celebration with his friend Moshe Hecht. "A huge part of our life is left behind."

For Hecht and Van Valin, an early Thanksgiving celebration provided the perfect opportunity to create a new holiday tradition and strengthen their family of friends. As the friend-family grew and attendance increased, the event also offered an ideal way to raise money for a good cause.

This year, Agua Verde Café (which by the way offers an equally warm and cozy atmosphere in the winter as the summer, without the crazy crowds), lent its facility at no cost for the occasion. In addition to turkey, mashed potatoes and some memorable Brussels sprouts, attendants enjoyed flan and salsa dancing for dessert.

Suggested donation was $25, and all proceeds went to Bahia Street, a Seattle-based organization devoted to young girls living in Salvador, Brazil, infamous for its poverty and shanty towns.

"It is an organization that I truly believe in," says Hecht, who currently lives in Paris and returned to Seattle to help facilitate this year's celebration. "Everything about this event feels like home."

Last year the dinner raised $3,300; this year, with the help of a local donor who will match the money raised, they hope to exceed $7,000.

"I think that this event is a great example of regular folks pulling together to help out other people in this world," concludes Paul Cifka, a Queen Anne resident and the bartender in charge of doling out the two gallons of fresh-made margaritas for the evening.

To get on next year's guest list, contact Van Valin at

And for more information about Bahia Street, visit

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