JAVA BURRITO Ribbon Cutting and Fundraiser for Shelter From the Rain

Mayor Van Johnson, Michael Fekete, Tanya Milton, Vernon Donovan
Mayor Van Johnson, Michael Fekete, Tanya Milton, Vernon Donovan

What do you do when Java Burritos’ Michael and Frederika Fekete tell you that they are hosting a fundraiser for Jennifer Graham’s Shelter From The Rain? You head downtown on Tues., August 30 to support the new kids on the block with one of the fiercest non-profits in town!

Parking in front of Kristen Harkleroad’s honey store on Broughton St., I poke my head in to tell her, “I better see you across the street at 5:30pm!” Knowing there is a cocktail waiting for her, she yells back, “Of course I’m coming, I’m calling all my friends to remind them to bring diapers and I’m giving away a Capital Bee Co. gift basket!”

Crossing the street, I find my host couple, Micheal and Frederika, opening their front doors for early guests. Assuring me they have a few minutes to chat, the duo tell me Savannah was their first choice for their second location.

“We had tremendous success in our Hilton Head location but Savannah was always on our radar. We have dreamed of being able to immerse ourselves in such a strong hospitality community. Having Savannah open her arms to us is a blessing and we hope to be able to give back with community events like tonight’s with Jennifer.” 

Passing by the coffee/spirited drink bar, I head over to meet tonight’s entertainer, Hilton Head guitarist and trumpet player Dean St. Hillaire. I then pose Frederika with Savannah media maven Tanya Milton and tonight’s event coordinator Marianne Ganem Poppell. Wiping her face, Marianne comments on this blasted heat then we hit the room for photos with Jennifer Graham of Shelter From The Rain.

Always a fan of Jennifer and her bubbly personality, I pause the executive director for an update on SFTR. “Having community partners like Java Burrito, Savannah Master Calendar and Step One Automotive allows us to provide single parents with the baby supplies, counseling services, virtual tutoring and a mentorship program,” shares the single mom.

After pics of Becca Rivera with her bestie, the aforementioned Kristen Harkleroad, and Brian Judson with my new photographer Kaitlin Sells, I pause for a pic of Old Town Trolley’s Jim Rafferty with Tourism Leadership Councils’ Ron Self. Tapping me on my shoulder for a pic with Marianne Greer is one of the most fascinating new faces in Savannah.

Meet Jordi Granger! Moving to Savannah to be closer to her sister’s family, the Puerto Rico native tells me how much she loves coaching her 12 year old nephew in little league baseball. What I find interesting about the event planner and business consultant is that she played offense and defense for the USA Women’s Team and Women’s Football Alliance. Who else do you know that has played professional football for 15 years? That’s the coolest job ever! 

Speaking of cool, I grab a free cookie crumble milkshake and get sugar chills before running over to hug my Latina friends Lisette Riccelli, Jessika Garcia and Rosa Gonzalez Phelps. While congratulating Rosa on her “unexpected surprise”, I see her husband Dwayne arrive in his Army uniform.

Walking in with him is Army veteran and State Farm Insurance agent Vernon Donovan. Busy inviting everyone he meets to his AMBUCS fundraiser/birthday party on September 22 at Stafford’s Public House, Vernon slows down to pose for a pic with my Step One Auto family Maja Ciric and Jonathan Oppenheim.

Rarely can someone wear a full beard as well as Jonathan! As Step One’s digital graphic design/ videographer guru, I ask for an update on his passion project. “Jim Goodlett is producing a short film linking Porsche’s  legacy in off-road racing. I’m a lucky enough to be the guy directing, filming and producing live racing content. Imagine cameras being mounted to bumper of a Porsche as it races through mud, gravel, water, even a river crossing!” shares the car enthusiast.

Well hey Stephen Plunk! Would you like to pose for a pic with Christi Kempf, Macey Fordham and Maura O’Donnell? “I insist,” shares the South of DeRenne Avenue organizer. Beside them are Rotary peeps Laura Lane McKinnon and Zerik Samples who invited me to Habitat for Humanity’s Hops for Habitat at Moodright’s on Abercorn on September 27.

Arriving next is none other than our Mayor Van Johnson. In a jubilant mood, the Mayor works the rooms with a lot of grip-and-grins, poses for some selfies then slows down for an introduction to Frederika and Michael. 

Outside for the ribbon cutting, I wrangle together the Mayor, the Fekete’s then yell for Marianne to get in the photo. Smile, cut the ribbon and wave y’all! Welcome to the neighborhood and thank y’all for opening your doors to fundraise for the small but mighty Shelter From The Rain!

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