After the success of their pumpkin drive, Newmarket’s Sebastian Stanescu and Aryan Sadghian are getting festive with their newest initiative to help fight food insecurity.
The high school friends hatched up the pumpkin drive idea at the last minute, raising more than 3,000 pounds of pumpkin for the Newmarket Food Pantry and DogTales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, when they were both back from university during reading week in October.
Stanescu says they wanted to build off the success of their first initiative and this time, they’re ahead of the curve in terms of organization with their first annual holiday fundraiser dinner on Dec. 27.
During the week of their pumpkin drive, the pair took an "eye-opening" tour of the Newmarket Food Pantry, said Sadghian.
“We saw how important monetary donations are for them,” he said. “We have this momentum going and so we wanted to make it a monetary fundraiser this time to donate all the profits to the food pantry.”
Initially when they came up with the pumpkin drive idea, Stanescu and Sadghian planned to cook all the pumpkins themselves to donate, but they didn’t have enough time to do it.
With more time to plan this time around, they’re excited that they’ll actually have the opportunity to do the cooking. Each of them will be preparing a different meal for those in attendance with Stanescu cooking pho with marinated chicken thigh and grilled scallions and Sadghian going with Persian khoresh bademjan, a vegetarian eggplant stew.
“We wanted to do the cooking from the start and now we have the opportunity to do so,” said Stanescu.
The event will also have live music from Latin band Ariana y Los Dinos and there will be a bar for refreshments.
Both Stanescu and Sadghian wanted it to be a good time for a good cause while also raising awareness about food insecurity, something they’re both passionate about.
“Like with the pumpkin drive, we want to do this because we care, but we also want it to be a good time,” said Sadghian. “It’s supposed to be fun and the entire time they’re supporting charity. It’s a win-win situation.”
Awareness is at the base of everything they do because at the end of the day, Stanescu said the impact is much greater through bringing awareness to food insecurity than through the events themselves.
“A lot of people don’t know what the scope of the issues are,” he said. “We want to show people what can be done to help. We only started doing this because we saw other people doing it.”
Sadghian said that they’re just two friends who wanted to drum up community involvement and take more direct action toward what they care about in an effort to fight food insecurity.
With the success of the pumpkin drive and support they’re receiving with the holiday dinner, they’re building toward launching a grassroots organization.
“We’re already talking about things we want to do for Canada Day and Halloween and next year’s holidays,” said Stanescu. “The goal is to turn it into an organization.”
They put the pumpkin drive together in a week, and have five weeks for the holiday dinner, which they say feels like a lifetime in comparison, but time is the only reason Stanescu said they haven’t launched a full-fledged organization yet.
“Due to time, we’re 100 per cent locked in on throwing this event now,” he said. “Once it’s done, the plan is to turn it into an ongoing organization with the main focus being making it easy for the community to get involved.”
All profits will be donated to the Newmarket Food Pantry with the dinner being Dec. 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Market Brewing Co., 17775 Leslie St. Unit 9, in Newmarket. Dress code is semi-formal and tickets to the event can be found here.
The holiday dinner has raised over $400 so far with a goal of hitting $1,200. Follow Stanescu and Sadghian’s efforts on Instagram here.