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A $2.1 Million Party

Afternoon tea raises a whopping $2.1 million at a hot Houston restaurant: Who needs celebrity speakers?

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Rotary District governor Bob Gebhard, from left, Rotary International treasurer and director Andy Smallwood, chef Kiran Verma and Rhonda Walker Kirby at Rotary tea June 2014
Rotary District governor Bob Gebhard, from left, Rotary International treasurer and director Andy Smallwood, chef Kiran Verma and Rhonda Walker Kirby at Rotary tea. Photo by D'Lisa Simmons

Rotary Clubs have long been recognized for a rousing civic pride and heartfelt charitable bent, but who would have imagined the amazing generosity demonstrated during a recent high tea at Kiran's Indian restaurant? Over cucumber sandwiches and Indian samosas, the call to raise $1 million for the Rotary Foundation exploded into a remarkable raise of $2.1 million.

Actually too early for tea and rather late for a midday feast, the gathering was initially billed as The Million Dollar Lunch. For this philanthropic feast, Kiran owner/chef Kiran Verma put on a spread of lamb and mushroom samosas and traditional English finger sandwiches such as salmon mousse, curried egg salad and mango Waldorf chicken salad.

 With no auctions, no celebrity speakers and no social heavyweights, the attendees broke fundraising traditions by writing checks. 

Apparently the good eats and the Indian Masala tea helped, along with the Rotary tradition of public service, inspire the deep reach into serious pockets as one of the 40 individuals attending made a single donation of $1 million. With no auctions, no celebrity speakers and no social heavyweights, the attendees broke fundraising traditions by writing checks, donating insurance policy benefits and bequeathing estates until the grand total of giving more than doubled expectations.

Applause, applause for tea chair D'Lisa Simmons, who in modest understatement noted, “We are so fortunate to live in an area where folks are so generous with not only their time, but also their financial resources.” 

The Rotary Foundation is said to be the largest funder and manpower provider in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio. Press information also says that Rotary is the largest provider of scholarships for Houston area youth. Monies raised for the Rotary Foundation go towards continuing education, healthcare initiatives, promotion of peace and growing local economies.

It was a win-win day for all as chef Verma was made a Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of her service to the local and international Indian communities.

Among the generous donors were Rotary district governor Bob Gebhard, Rotary International treasurer and director Andy Smallwood, past district governor Rhonda Walls Kerby, Sally and  David Hopkins, Meghan and Dr. Ken Lutschg, Dr. Anne Matthews and Sandy and Dr. Eric Liu.

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