On a late Saturday afternoon at the beginning of June, laughter, lively conversation, and the sounds of rock and roll music carried through the air from the Fullerton Plaza to where my car was parked on Pomona Avenue. These were the sounds from the Assistance League of Fullerton’s 42nd Annual Taste of the Town event.
The Taste of the Town fundraiser was an evening of food, beverages, music, and entertainment benefiting local philanthropic programs as well as helping the Healthy Neighborhoods program and the Foster Youth Success Initiative. Proceeds also benefit La Vista High School, a continuation school in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District where Assistance League members provide many avenues of support for the students. Various restaurants in the area donate time and special signature dishes, and guests attending the event are allowed to sample as much food as they wish for the price of admission. “All proceeds go back into the communities we serve through our philanthropies,” Michele Amador said. Michele had kindly invited me as a guest.
The Assistance League of Fullerton supports community-based philanthropic programs benefiting everyone from infants to adults. According to their website, the League’s philanthropic endeavors include Operation School Bell, which provides $114,000 annually in new school clothing to students in need who are attending elementary through junior high school in 8 area school districts; Vision Screening & Referral, which oversees and finances vision screenings for local school children from 20 area schools, offering eye glasses when needed; Meals on Wheels, which provides low-cost meals to housebound seniors who are unable to shop for groceries or prepare their own meals; Santa’s Closet, which provides holiday help for families in need in the form of gift cards from local retailers; and Operation New Start, which supports adults and children who have left abusive environments with clothing and domestic items while they are in a protective setting.
This was the organization’s 42nd year celebrating Taste of the Town, which the Assistance League has been hosting since 1979. After having to forego the fundraiser in 2020, and going virtual last year due to the pandemic, Assistance League members, who had been working for months to make the evening happen, were excited to be returning in person for the event at Fullerton Plaza.
Roughly 400 people gathered together from 5 to 9pm on Saturday, June 4, for this year’s Taste of the Town, which had a “Vegas Style” theme, and featured 18 of Fullerton’s finest dining and catering establishments. People could pre-pay $70 or $75 at the door. Children 12 and under were able to get in for free. Wilshire Avenue was blocked off with white signs, and police caution tape roped off the courtyard area, where guests were just starting to arrive. Blue arrows pointed to the Taste of the Town check-in booth on the far side of the Fullerton Plaza.
Upon check-in, I presented my press badge, talked to some of the friendly Assistance League members who were working at the booth, and received a booklet along with a red wristband, which would allow me access to the food and beverages. The check-in area was right next to an archway decorated with red, black, and gold streamers. Large blackjack cards hung over visitors as they entered. Oversized red and white dice greeted guests. Stepping through the archway, I saw several tables set up in the center of the courtyard. There were even more tables in the middle of Wilshire underneath an extended white tent. The restaurants each had their respective booths around the edges of the courtyard. Fullerton Police officers were present to help with security.
Guests were able to taste everything from bisque to barbeque chicken, from pasta to pastries. There was American, British, Mexican, Mediterranean, and Italian food offered, as well as several different types of wine and desserts, from Big B’s BBQ, Bourbon Street, Brian’s, Brownstone Café, El Farolito, Fratellino’s, Fullerton Brew Co., Gem Meats, JP23 BBQ, Jaxon’s Chix, Matador Cantina, Patty’s Cakes, Philz Coffee, Polly’s Pies, Roman Cucina, The Old Spaghetti Factory, Spice Social, and The Olde Ship.
A DJ stood on stage at the Fullerton Plaza, playing old school rock and roll hits, such as La Bamba, Louie Louie, and songs by Little Richard and Chuck Berry, as guests mingled. In the center of the Museum courtyard, there was a large red booth where all the raffle baskets were out on full display. Tickets for all the baskets, which were comprised of gift certificates and merchandise, could be purchased at the event. Guests could also purchase tickets for an “opportunity” to win $1,500, $1,000, and $500 from Jeweler’s Touch.
In light of the evening’s Vegas-style theme, blackjack and roulette tables were on full display. There was even a “casino” sign hanging on a tree next to more giant colorful dice. Dealers came dressed in the full attire and waited for people to play. Some guests seemed really invested in these games. However, my attention was focused more on the stage when The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself made an appearance: an Elvis impersonator dressed in a diamond-studded suit, with signature sideburns and sunglasses, singing a mix of fast and slow songs. He later went around and took photos with guests while staying in character.
Assistance League Committee members had chosen this Vegas-style theme before the pandemic hit and then were forced to postpone their plans. The lovely centerpieces that accompanied each of the tables had been prepared way in advance. Cards and poker chips curved around the stem of the centerpieces that sprouted out of red bases. Blackjack playing cards were arranged around the rich red of the tablecloth underneath each centerpiece that followed the red, white, and black color scheme found throughout the event’s decorations.
It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to the 42nd annual Taste of the Town event. With my red wristband, I was able to try lots of delicious foods, photograph the festivities, observe the games and decorations, socialize, and listen to Elvis sing.
The Assistance League is one of the town’s longest-running philanthropic organizations. They were organized as a guild in 1940. The League was active with the Red Cross during World War II making surgical dressings, layettes, knitted articles, and aiding the USO. They also extended aid to veterans at the end of the war. By 1950, the Fullerton chapter was chartered.
Today, the Assistance League’s work has expanded to serve the north Orange County cities of Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, and Yorba Linda. They have been serving these communities for 82 years. While the League was originally based in an old Episcopal church on Amerige, they now have their own buildings across the street from the Fullerton Police Station, including the popular Thrift Shop (formerly known as “The Bargain Box”), which happens to be their main source of raising funds.
The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization consists of Chapter Members who volunteer to staff the Thrift Store and other events, Assisteens (junior high and high school students), and ALPHA, professional women who have their own philanthropies, and who work with the Fullerton Elementary School District to provide people experiencing homelessness with much-needed supplies. Currently, the Assistance League of Fullerton has over 260 member volunteers working to transform the lives of children and adults through community programs.
“The members of the Assistance League of Fullerton are guided by a set of core values: Love of Community, Friendship, Respect, Generosity, Dignity, Patience, and Service,” Michele Amador, Vice President of Resource Development, said via email.
To learn more about the Assistance League of Fullerton visit https://www.assistanceleague.org/fullerton/.