Kroger presents ‘Open Your Heart’ to support Stepping Stones Center

January 14th, 2010    Author: Staff Report    Filed Under: Community

The Kroger Company will be the presenting sponsor for the “Open Your Heart” dinner at Eddie Merlot’s on Feb. 9. The pre-Valentine evening supports the non-profit Stepping Stones Center for children and adults with disabilities.

The event feeds two passions, said Kroger President Geoffrey Covert, who is an unabashed fan of the food, wine and service at Eddie Merlot’s in Montgomery, and also is committed to giving back to the community.

“The food here is phenomenal and they have a great wine list,” said Covert. “One of our core values is giving back to the community. We have a lot of people with disabilities working at our stores. ‘Open Your Heart’ fits with what we do and what we believe.”

Theresa Ciampone, of Anderson, left, and Mary McGraw of Indian Hill, address invitations for
Eddie Merlot General Manager Bill Vezeau shares that passion.

"I have a special interest in Stepping Stones. It has a lot to do with my son, who has a disability. I know how important Stepping Stones' programs are," said Vezeau.

His son has worked at Kroger stores and he and Covert have become friends over Eddie Merlot steaks, he said.

When Covert learned Eddie Merlot's was hosting the Open Your Heart dinner, he wanted to help, Vezeau said.

"For Eddie Merlot's this is very simply our founder's passion - to support local charities, particularly children's charities. In tough times, most charities have a difficult time raising funds. We have been very fortunate and we want to give back. Our guests are benevolent in nature, so it's a good fit," he said.

"Open Your Heart" is Eddie Merlot's only on-site charity event and a major gift to Stepping Stones Center, assuring that more than 75 percent of the ticket price goes directly to Stepping Stones Center.

The event opens with a 6 p.m. cocktail hour of passed hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer. Three-course dinner is at 7 p.m. with salad of assorted field greens, fresh fruit, almonds and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. Main course is duet of filet mignon and white wine poached Atlantic salmon accented with red wine demiglace and a white wine garlic beurre blanc, accompanied by wild mushroom risotto and fresh asparagus. Dessert is vanilla tart with fresh berries and a white wine sabayon.

Tickets are $125 per person with a limit of 250 guests at Eddie Merlot's, 10808 Montgomery Rd., at I-275, in Montgomery. Guests also can buy Valentines that support camperships for campers attending the Stepping Stones Center day and residential camps for children and adults with disabilities. Raffle prizes include pink corundum and diamond earrings from D'Elegante, an original framed oil painting by Cincinnati artist Leslie Birckhead, a Two's Company spa package from Woodhouse Day Spa, and a complete skin analysis session with Osmotic Cosmeceuticals, with Osmotics products and gift certificates.

Corporate and individual sponsors are welcome. "Braveheart" corporate sponsorships of $2,500 include a table for 10; "Cupid" table sponsorships include a table for eight for $1,500, a table for six for $1,200 and a table for four for $800. Sponsorships include signage and special recognition.

Key sponsors include Kroger, Eddie Merlot's Fifth Third, Bartlett & Co., Leslie and Dr. Oliver Birckhead III, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Convalescent Hospital for children, Convergyks, CORT, Adele and Terry Craft, D'Elegante Inc., Jane and Mike Keating, R.G. McGraw Insurance Agency, River City Furniture and Wildlife Internationale.

Chairperson is Mary McGraw of Indian Hill, who hosted an invitation addressing party at Stepping Stones Center. For tickets or information, contact Theresa Ciampone, Special Events coordinator for Stepping Stones Center, 513-831-4660 ext. 12 or email

Stepping Stones Center is a 47-year-old United Way partner agency and a Better Business Bureau-certified charity with programs at Stepping Stones Center in Indian Hill and at Camp Allyn in Batavia.
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