Chocolate Lovers’ Gala supports victims

EVERETT — After nearly 20 years, the Chocolate Lovers’ Gala is drawing crowds faster than ever.

The 18th annual event, to benefit to the Snohomish County Center for Battered Women, not only seated 400 guests for its “Noche de Chocolate” March 26 at the Everett Events Center, but it did so weeks in advance, according to Vicci Hilty.

“We have 40 cakes for bid, one for each table,” said Hilty, deputy director of the Snohomish County Center for Battered Women. “We have community leaders, donors and friends here tonight, who understand the importance of our work.”

The silent and live auctions, with dinner and dessert, attracted bidders and diners from as far away as Camano Island and Seattle, along with local contributors.

Arlington’s Kathleen Gunn serves as chief deputy of the Snohomish County Clerk’s Office and manages its Domestic Violence Unit.

“I’ve been coming to this for at least five years,” Gunn said. “It’s educational. The auction allows a lighter side to a serious subject. It’s a very hard topic, and it’s good to honor the work of these groups.”

Gunn enjoys bidding on regional art, while fellow Arlington resident Carla Ward, of the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, keeps an eye out for local or unusual jewelry, especially since she has four daughters.

“The center provides a vital community service, and I’m concerned about anything that could limit its capacity,” said Ward, attending the gala for her second consecutive year. “It’s fun. It’s a great way to meet new people, the chocolate is great, and it’s for a great cause.”

Suzanne Moreau has been attending the gala since she moved to Marysville nearly four years ago, and is always in the market for artists with a Pacific Northwest flavor.

“It’s a great community-building event in support of a fabulous agency,” Moreau said. “I always attend their annual luncheons too.”

Victoria Mattson, co-owner of Let’s Dish! in Tulalip, chaired this year’s dessert dash portion of the event and praised the cake-bakers.

“They really outdid themselves this year,” Mattson said. “The results are gorgeous. This is one of the most emotionally provocative auctions I’ve attended. People are passionate about helping women and families who have been displaced by domestic violence, and that comes through in the bidding.”

Marysville’s Kelly Roan not only won one of the gift baskets in the silent auction, but also donated her cabin in Winthrop for the live auction. She first attended the gala two years ago, in the wake of a relative surviving domestic violence of her own.

“Money is not even an object for a cause like this,” said Shari Petersen, also from Marysville, as she eyed the table of cakes. “I love chocolate, and my husband tells me to go ahead and enjoy myself for the evening. I try and put myself in the shoes of these women and children, and what they’ve been through, and I can’t even do it. We have to reach out to them.”

Teresa Cox, board president for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, noted that the center is the only confidential shelter for domestic violence victims in the county.

“These people work diligently every day to put an end to violence,” Cox said. “With enough people, all those ripple effects can become a wave, that will grant peace in every home.”

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