Taste of Georgia
03 November, 2011
Taste of Georgia

On October 16, 2011 Atlanta City Hall hosted the Fourth Annual fundraising evening for Taste of Georgia. For the past four years Taste of Georgia has been enjoying the patronage of the Atlanta Tbilisi Sister city Committee. With the help of this committee and the mayor’s office, Taste of Georgia organizer and Georgian Mission Director, Nina Tickaradze has been able to converge members of Georgian community at the City Hall with a fundraising goal in mind. 

The precursor to Taste of

Georgia, Hand in Hands, grew out of an unexpected trip Ms. Tickaradze took to a Georgian orphanage in 2003. “I had never seen anything so devastating in my whole life,” she said, adding it was then she had decided to help. Ms. Tickaradze started to host annual dinners for Hand in Hands at her clubhouse for hundred or so people who had come to donate to the orphanages. When she met  Honorary Consul to Georgia John E. Hall Jr, who was approbative of her work with Hand in Hands, he suggested bringing the burgeoning Georgian community to a bigger platform. With his help Hand in Hands flourished into Taste of Georgia and has been an annual staple for Georgian community and friends of Georgia for four years. To distribute the  fundraising money more effectively, Taste of Georgia had teamed up with United Methodist Church in Atlanta to work together to bring donations and goods to orphaned and underprivileged children in  Georgia. United Methodist Church retains a full time Georgian employee in Kutaisi who takes care of distribution of goods to children in and around Kutaisi’s schools and orphanages. United Methodist Church also takes great care to assist and provide for physically disabled kids. For example, one of the places they support is Rioni School for the Deaf in Kutaisi. Their delegation goes to Georgia every year to see what else is needed. United Methodist Church is not the only organization Taste of Georgia fundraises for. Immediately after the war of 2008, Scott Henwood, Counsel to the Honorary Consul, and Ms. Tickaradze went to Georgia and witnessed the plight of IDPs. For the next two years Taste of Georgia channelled their funds to the IDPs. The funds were used to buy necessary goods locally and hand deliver them to displaced children and affected families.

Yet another cause Taste of Georgia sponsors has been the almost saintly Tika Tsitsishvili, a young nurse who works in Tbilisi’s Children’s Hospital. She works in a ward where mother’s deny their children. She takes care of these kids, as they are either to sick or too young to be taken into an orphanage. The ward is one big room with three to four kids per one bed and there can be anywhere from 30 to 100 kids there at one time. The hospital is unable to provide assistance for this ward, and Taste of Georgia directs some of the funding to it. Ms. Tickaradze is hopeful that Taste of Georgia will grow and find more organizations to partner with. At the Fourth Annual Dinner, Ms. Tickaradze had met Dr. Patricia Blair who had established a non-profit organization called A Call to Serve or ACTS in Kutaisi’s sister city Columbia, Missouri.  “ACTS has been operational since 1192, I had no knowledge of it,” Ms. Tickaradze said.”So there must be other organizations that are also friends of Georgia. It would be great to have one annual get together of all the organizations in the US that are friends of Georgia.”

Taste of Georgia is fastidious in its recognition and appraisal of the work friends of Georgia do. Every year a Phoenix award is given to persons who have really stepped up and done something extraordinary for Georgia and Georgian people. First ever Phoenix award four years ago was given  to Ken Walker for his invaluable  work in Georgia. This year the Phoenix award was presented to  Major General William T. Nesbitt. Lisa Nesbitt, Major general’s wife received the Humanitarian award. Humanitarian award is given for assistance provided on one on one basis to people who desperately need help. To put together an event such as Taste of Georgia, that is based on community, Ms. Tickaradze enlists the help of loyal Georgian friends. Food and drink and preparation time are generously donated by the Georgian community. Music has been provided, for the past four years, by Papuna Kordzalia’s band Pjazz. The band members, who are mostly American, donate their time and bring their own instruments.  To cover their expenses, Taste of Georgia is always looking for sponsors. In the previous years, Coca-cola has sponsored the event amongst others. This year the firm Hall Booth Smith & Slover, P.C, was their biggest sponsor.

Another staple at Taste of Georgia is the showcase of Georgian artists. “Last year we had the amazing Silversmith Gia Gogishvili’s work on display.” Ms. Tickaradze said.”This year amongst other artists we had showcased the paintings of a young artist Zaza Sakheishvili. We always try to display art, and surprisingly every year we find more and more Georgian artists who actually live here.”  Every year Taste of Georgia invites a high profile honorary guest to speak at the ceremony and to get to know members of the  Georgian community who annually support Taste of Georgia. To christen the fundraising event the first year, Sandra Roelofs had come to the event, and this year the Guest of Honor was Georgian  Ambassador to the US Temur Yakobashvili. The main goal of inviting government officials, besides their company,  is to promote American relationships with Georgia and to promote growth and awareness. Their presence also brings more support for the event from both continents. ‘We want people in Georgia to know that we are here to support them, and we want people in the US to get to know Georgia better.’

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