‘Taste of Decadence’ benefits VCS

SMOKEY POINT — Village Community Services offered a taste of “Wonderland” to 165 attendees of its ninth annual “Taste of Decadence.”

While the April 9 fundraiser collected approximately $15,000, roughly equal to last year’s total, with this year’s theme of “Alice in Wonderland,” VCS Resource Development Manager Michelle Dietz believes the evening’s message was at least as important as the monies it earned through its silent auctions of professionally made desserts and other donated items.

“We’re not a big-ticket auction,” Dietz said. “It matters that our attendees learn about our vocational and residential services, as well as our programs like Voices of the Village.”

VCS provides disabled residents of Marysville, Arlington and Stanwood with avenues to build their self-esteem and productivity. Its band, Voices of the Village, offers a creative outlet for disabled people to express themselves, while VCS career planning and placement services help disabled people find and keep jobs. VCS also raises funds so that disabled people can live in their own homes, which is a tough goal on a tight budget with the rate of early-onset Alzheimer’s among those with Down syndrome.

“We’ve lost several of our larger contracts in the wake of the economic downturn, but we still have 15 people with disabilities who we’re trying to find work for,” Dietz said. “We’re also looking at budget cuts in state funding, but we can’t cut the hours for our program participants.”

As an example of the sorts of people whose potential VCS hopes to foster, Dietz expressed her admiration for the evening’s keynote speaker, Dylan Kuehl, a visual and performing artist who advocates politically for himself and others with disabilities.

“My words of wisdom for the disabled is they should not be afraid to show the world what they can do,” said Kuehl, a 27-year-old with Down syndrome who runs his own business. “When the going gets tough, get right back up and let nothing negative stand in your way. What a crowd this is,” he added, indicating the room full of attendees at the Stillaguamish Senior Center. “The more people who can hear this message, the better.”

“When people leave this event, we want them to have a better understanding of what we do and why it’s important,” Dietz said. “We need money to invest in our programs, but it’s just as important for us to gain long-term supporters in the community.”

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