Tacoma beer festivals a bust for nonprofits

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Most Pierce County nonprofits promised tens of thousands of dollars in beer festival proceeds haven’t seen a dime.

State law requires a beer festival to be officially sponsored be a nonprofit, so organizers of Tacoma’s Craft Beer Festival approached charitable organizations to take part.

“It’s very hard to find money, food stamps have been cut back, it’s been a very difficult time for us,” said Helen McGovern, Emergency Food Network Executive Director.

The Emergency Food Network serves 1.3 million families each year. With demand for services increasing, it took the opportunity to make up to $40,000 promised at each event.

Bennett Thurmon, festival director, organized the Big Beer Festival on February 16th at Foss Waterway Seaport and the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival at Cheney Stadium on September 7.

KING 5’s Rich Marriott served as the “official weather guy” at the September event.

“There were people there, sponsors that paid for sponsorships, still no money,” said McGovern.

Pierce County’s YWCA was promised up to $30,000 at the February event to support its work to help women escape domestic violence.

“The need is huge, our shelter is always full, we’re putting people up in hotels and paying for that,” said Miriam Barnett, CEO.

After Barnett contacted the Secretary of State’s Office about the missing contribution, the beer festival finally sent a check for about $1,000 in September.

“Which is a very very small amount compared to what we should have gotten,” said Barnett.

Tacoma’s American Heart Association also took part in September’s event and has yet to see any money.

“It’s time to tell the truth. If you’re going to do a community event that the community loves then let it benefit the community,” said Barnett.

Repeated attempts to reach Thurmon for comment were unsuccessful. On his event’s Facebook page, a post said the two festivals lost $60,000 because of low attendance.

Barnett finds that hard to believe.

“(It was) sold out days and days in advance. People who were trying to get tickets the day before couldn’t get tickets,” she said.

“They just need to answer all the questions. They put off meetings and they don’t provide information that we’ve requested. If they have nothing to hide, then they shouldn’t hide it,” said McGovern.

Non-profits promoted the events even absorbed costs to help staff them to ensure their success. The Emergency Food Network has received about $500 reimbursement for that.

But for most organizations that took part so far, the only payoff is a new perspective.

“I guess it’s a lesson learned about who you chose to lend your name to and who you can trust,” said McGovern.

Non-profits say the situation is especially tough knowing some in the community showed up at festivals just to support them.

While a beer festival is typically held in the winter, no plans have been announced for one yet.

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