8/27/2013 9:48:00 AM SMA students host dinner to help hungry
St. Mary's Academy photo Elena and Sophia DeLeonibus
It was a perfect summer evening for a dinner party, aside from a bit of rain. Strands of outdoor lights strung between trees provided soft mood lighting. Mellow tunes from Jack Johnson and The Shins purred out of speakers placed strategically in the front and rear yards of the DeLeonibus family's Northeast Portland home. The smell of chicken and sausage gumbo and stuffed eggplant wafted from the kitchen.
Everything was ready for guests to start trickling in for the 11th annual Wolf From The Door charity dinner, orchestrated by twins and St. Mary's Academy juniors Elena and Sophia DeLeonibus on Aug. 10. Patrons pay suggested donations of $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Proceeds benefit Sisters Of The Road, a nonprofit offering low-cost meals to the homeless population in Old Town.
This year, the 16-year-old sisters and their parents, Gaetano DeLeonibus and Gina Greco, hosted approximately 125 patrons and raised $3,300 for Sisters Of The Road.
In total, the girls have raised $14,300 for their favorite charity over the past 11 years of Wolf From The Door dinners. With assistance from a family friend, Ruth Carr, they started this venture back in 2002 at the age of 5 as a response to the poverty and hunger they witnessed on the streets of Portland.
"We originally told our parents we wanted to open a restaurant to feed the hungry. They didn't believe we were sincere until we started gathering a pile of wood in the front yard to build it. Then they suggested we host a dinner instead, charge money and donate the proceeds to a charity that feeds the homeless," says Elena.
They chose Sisters Of The Road, an organization cofounded by 1970 St. Mary's Academy alumna Genevieve Nelson.
"It means a lot to our organization that these sweet girls host this event," said Brenda Morgan, Sisters Of The Road special events coordinator.
The funds generated go directly to the café, which serves about 250 meals to hungry community members every day.
Over the years, the girls have evolved their approach. In 2002, the menu consisted of items 5-year-olds could prepare — hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and brownies. Now, the menu is more elaborate, featuring appetizers, a variety of main dishes, desserts and several beverage options. In a nod to Portlandia culture, written descriptions include whether dishes are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, organic and, in some instances, how the animal providing the meat was raised.
"That kind of information matters to people," said Abby Diess, a St. Mary's Academy junior who co-hosted this year's event. Other volunteers included St. Mary's juniors Caroline Ambrose, Caroline Cassinelli and Lucy O'Sullivan and sophomore Kate Patterson. The girls have also opened a restaurant gift shop selling handmade t-shirts, paintings, pottery and, new this year, donated items. Not only did they secure $300 in food donations from Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, New Seasons and Trader Joe's, but they sold goods and services gifted from boutiques on Hawthorne, Northwest 23rd, Alberta and Fremont.
Though the event has expanded every year, adding more patrons and steadily increasing the amount of money raised, next year will be the DeLeonibus sisters' last time hosting Wolf From The Door.
Both girls will leave for college in the fall of 2015, but they're taking steps now to ensure that this annual event doesn't end. They created a how-to PowerPoint presentation and plan to enlist other young people to host similar benefits.
"We love seeing the care and concern these girls have for the work we do," Morgan said. "For any family to host this kind of an event for 11 years is amazing. We are extremely grateful for their service."