Chocolate must be the way to wine lovers’ hearts, because the Winey Baker, a small business run by Jill Drew in Poland, won the popular vote for Best Dish at the Toast on the Coast for Easter Seals Maine.

Two hundred people attended the wine-themed fundraiser at Ocean Gateway, raising $23,300 for two key Easter Seals initiatives: services for children with special needs and emergency financial assistance for post-9/11 veterans in Maine.

“It’s exciting to see it all come together, and be here as the sun sets,” said Amie Marzen, communications consultant for Easter Seals.

“There are so many wines to sample here; you could try them the entire evening and not get through them all,” said Chris Tweedie of Portland. “But we’re going to give it our best shot.”

“We love sampling,” said Melanie Martelle of Gray, noting that she’d already cast her food vote for CVC Catering’s shrimp crackers, a take on the 1970s shrimp roast remade with molecular gastronomy.

The dozen restaurants/chefs participating included MK Kitchen (Maine crab cones with lemon vinaigrette and bacon crumbs), Brunswick Inn and Tavern (beef roulade with prosciutto, fontina, and Tuscan kale), Chebeague Island Inn (smoked salmon layered crepes), Sea Glass (lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce), Vignola (Maine scallop carpaccio), and Central Provisions (fluke ceviche).

“Local restaurants give out some great food and let people experience Portland,” said Tony Grasruck of Gorham. “It think it’s a great way to raise money.”

Guests raised bidder numbers to pledge donations ranging from $50 to $500.

Hayley McCambridge talked about how Easter Seals has helped her son Asher, who has autism and is part of an early intervention program at North Star Learning Center.

“Now he’s speaking in full sentences, and asking kids to play,” McCambridge said. “I don’t know what I would do if Easter Seals didn’t open him up like that … I didn’t know that anyone could dig that deep for my kiddo except for me.”

“My daughter has autism,” said planning committee member Mike Chapman of Gorham. “She’s 18, and we used Easter Seals’ services for special needs children when she was younger, so this is my way of giving back.”

“Tonight is just so crucial to helping to provide services to the kiddos,” said Katie Sankare, an Easter Seals mental health clinician.

Her husband, Gimbala Sankare, transitioned from Army life a year ago and is now chairman of Easter Seals Veterans Count Maine.

“We fundraise for all the funds that come in to help veterans,” he said, adding that 90 cents of every dollar that comes in for that fund goes directly to veterans.

“When our military professionals are in Iraq and they can’t fund their oil bill, for example, we can help with that,” said Michelle Rancourt, who has worked with Easter Seals for 17 years. Other types of recipients include former service members who can’t pay their rent or who can’t afford a cellphone during a job search.

“This is critical so we can be that first line for assistance to overcome those barriers to their next step,” said Jeremy Kendall, director of military services. “Every dollar counts. Every dollar stays in Maine.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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