By May S. Ruiz
If your idea of an enjoyable evening is sampling a wide variety of fares downed with craft beer and locally distilled spirits, then you’re in for a real treat. Families Forward Learning Center is holding its 8th Annual Twilight Tasting on Saturday, October 13, from 6 to 10 pm, at 980 N. Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena, and promises food and beverage aplenty.
Established in 1961 as Mothers’ Club, it was originally located on Orange Grove Blvd. Its programs expanded and, in time, it outgrew that center. Using funds raised through a capital campaign, it purchased its present 10,000-square-foot building in the heart of Northwest Pasadena in 2006.
A team of education, planning, and design professionals transformed the property into a facility that could support and promote learning for thousands of families over the decades. The designated Gold-Level LEED-certified sustainable building houses five age-appropriate classrooms for children aged 0-5, an outdoor learning center, a parent education center, library, quiet room, nutrition kitchen, social kitchen, and administrative offices.
It was renamed Families Forward last September to expressly reflect its mission – to prepare families living in isolation and poverty to succeed in school and in life, through two-generation learning programs.
The two-generation program consists of a morning and an afternoon session covering early childhood education (ECE), parent education, adult education, mental health support and leadership training.
Additionally, Families Forward offers a weekly Teen Parenting on Thursday afternoons, a weekly Fathers Support Group on Wednesday evenings, and Early Readers’ Book Club one Saturday morning per month.
Berit Anderson, Manager for Communications and Events at Families Forward, describes, “Our tutoring and learning program is geared for children between zero and five years old, when the early development crucial to their growth, is taking place. We want to ensure that children are fully prepared to transition to kindergarten.
“Our adult program encompasses adult education, parenting education, and mental health services in partnership with Pacific Oaks. To accommodate families’ specific needs, we partner with several organizations in the community for services we cannot provide here at the center. For instance, we collaborate with Pasadena City College to offer ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.”
A resource and a safety net for the 83 percent of families who are living at, or below, the federal poverty level, Families Forward currently serves 116 children, or 100 families, who live in the neighborhood. It is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Morning program hours are from 9 to 11 am and afternoon programs are from 1 to 4:30 pm.
Families Forward has nine people in its administrative staff and three credentialed teachers. It is funded by the California teachers program, Head Start, the federal government, individual and company donors, and community supporters.
“Twilight Tasting started eight years ago to create an opportunity for people to come in to our center,” Anderson discloses. “We have our Back to School Night before the event, so all the classrooms will display the children’s artwork. After that, people can walk around to enjoy a beer, wine, and food festival held here in our teaching spaces and the parking lot.
“We call restaurants, food, and drink companies to take part in the event. There will be 16 restaurants, some of whom are coming back from previous years’ participation, with tables and tastings throughout the evening for 300 attendees. We’ve also created relationships with businesses throughout the year and it’s a good chance for them to promote their restaurant. They’ll get face-time with our patrons, community leaders, and people in the area. It’s also an opportunity for them to show their support for our organization.
“We’re very grateful to have Boomtown Brewery, Braise & Crumble, Califia Farms, El Cholo Café, El Portal, Everson Royce, Hope Café & Catering, Kitchen Mouse, Mt. Lowe Brewing Co., Panda Express, Pasadena Sandwich Company, Semolina Artisanal Pasta, Siera Fusion, Stark Spirits, and Mendocino Farms this year.”
Anderson says further, “Our Twilight Tasting will again feature a live band, and a wine pull. Additionally, we’ll have an auction and a mobile bidding. Auction items include a Staples Center suite for either a Clippers or Kings game, which comes with VIP parking; tickets to Disneyland; a couple of vacation getaways – to Las Vegas at the Cosmo, and the W Hotel in Hollywood. We will also have some artwork pieces made by the children, which will be professionally framed.
“Tickets are $120 and can be purchased online and at the venue, right up to the event. We’re launching our online auction starting Wednesday, October 3, for those who couldn’t attend but would like to participate, and will be open until the end of the event.”
“We were one of the first organizations in Pasadena to have a tasting event,” Anderson declares. “We hold a gala every year but we wanted to create something more intimate and casual, an occasion for people to just have a great time.”
That you will be contributing to a worthy cause while indulging your inner foodie only makes Twilight Tasting twice as satisfying. See you at the party!