Chef’s Auction Support Critical for Wheeling Health Right

Reviewing plans for the May 5 Chefs’ Auction are, from left, Terri Henry, Wheeling Health Right auxiliary president; Janice Carenbauer, Health Right front office manager and silent auction chair; Jessica Rine, auxiliary member and United Way associate director; Kathie Brown, Health Right executive director; emcee Steve Mazure; Brenda Danehart of sponsor WTRF-TV; and Dee Phillips, Health Right executive secretary and event planner. Photo by Linda Comins

WHEELING — With its governmental funding threatened, Wheeling Health Right and its supporters realize that raising significant sums at its Chefs’ Auction is more critical than ever.

The 24th annual Chefs’ Auction will be staged at WesBanco Arena on May 5. Kathie Brown, executive director of Wheeling Health Right, said organizers hope to exceed the $82,000 raised at last year’s event.

Republican leaders in Congress withdrew the proposed American Health Care Act from a vote last week, but the future of the current Affordable Care Act — particularly in terms of Medicaid expansion — remains uncertain. Brown and leaders of other free and charitable clinics in West Virginia also are watching actions of the Legislature closely because of the state budget crisis.

In addition, city leaders are unsure if they will receive any more federal Community Development Block Grant money because President Donald Trump’s budget seeks to end the program. Wheeling Health Right received $20,000 in CDBG funds this year, which Brown said allows the free clinic to purchase up to $500,000 worth of generic medicine because the agency receives deep discounts on pharmaceuticals.

Despite the uncertainty of public funding for free and charitable clinics, Brown said, “We will be here.”

However, she predicted, “If Medicaid expansion goes out, our numbers are going to explode — 20,000 (patients) will be minimal.”

Currently,Wheeling Health Right serves almost 19,000 patients, she said.

Speaking at a kickoff breakfast for the Chefs’ Auction, Brown told participants, “You are saving lives. You are making a difference. You are keeping people working. You are keeping them involved in the economy.”

The Chefs’ Auction is Wheeling Health Right’s major annual fundraiser. Yearly proceeds have grown more than ten-fold since the event’s inception. The initial auction made $8,000 in profit, she said.

The number of chefs also has grown steadily, with 20 institutions set to participate this year. Dee Phillips, Health Right’s executive secretary and event planner, said the Hall of Fame Cafe in Wheeling and Texas Roadhouse at The Highlands are new participants this year.

The theme for the Chefs’ Auction is “Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.” Phillips said they used the same theme in 2000, but since this year’s event falls on May 5, they couldn’t resist choosing the Cinco de Mayo angle again.

Terri Henry, president of Health Right’s auxiliary, said the popular fundraiser attracts more than 650 people and requires a team effort to organize.

Discussing the clinic’s importance to the community, Henry said, “Each and every one of us could be in the position where we might have to walk through the doors of Wheeling Health Right.”

Offering culinary fare to sample at the Chefs’ Auction are Centre Market Bakery, Cilantro Latin Grill, Elmhurst-The House of Friendship, Good Shepherd Nursing Home, Hall of Fame Cafe, Soup Shack, The Vagabond Kitchen, Tito’s Sloppy Dogs, Valley Cheese, Wheeling Coffee & Spice, Wheeling Island Hotel Casino & Racetrack, Wheeling Park, Oglebay and Ye Olde Alpha, all in Wheeling; Logan’s Roadhouse and Texas Roadhouse, both at The Highlands; Ruttenbucks Grille, Valley Grove; Kirke’s Homemade Ice Cream and Mehlman’s Cafeteria, both of St. Clairsville, and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, Chester.

Christian Fellowship Foundation is the title sponsor for the event.

Other sponsors, to date, are Beyond Marketing, Lamar Advertising, Wheeling Island Hotel Casino & Racetrack, WTRF-TV, Bordas & Bordas, Dr. James and Lynn Comerci, Mr. and Mrs. Greg Gantzer, Dr. Donald Hofreuter, Pat’s Hallmark, A.E. Pelley, Project BEST, Dr. Maria Setlak, Kroger, Wheeling Linen, BG Audio, CompCon Systems, Dr. Philip D. High, Dr. John D. Holloway, I.P.A., Sharpsky Printing, Grisell Funeral Home & Crematory, Progressive Bank and Valley Hospice.