On–campus dinner gets fancy for a good cause

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Donating to charity has never been easier or more fun. An alternative to a normal Saturday night dinner, Date Night Done Well, an on-campus charity dinner hosted in the Berkus Hall courtyard, allowed couples and friends alike to enjoy entertainment and one another’s company for a good cause.

The function raised proceeds through a five dollar admission price, buffeted by a two dollar Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) donation for each ticket sold. Students noshed on food catered by Campus Dining while enjoying entertainment from Occidental student band Campus Security, Occidental’s Jazz Band and singing from undeclared major Micah Garrido (first-year). By the end of the night, guests were cheerful and the food consumed. Additionally, the event raised $1,302 – well past their initial goal of $1,000.

First-year undeclared major Ashkan Mortazavi first conceived of this ASOC-sponsored event during the Office of Student Life (OSL) Emerging Leaders Program fall retreat. Mortazavi has been involved with the organization Well Done Liberia since high school, raising money to provide clean water wells in impoverished areas of Liberia. While on the Emerging Leaders retreat, Mortazavi was inspired by Occidental’s water sustainability efforts and decided to come up with a way for Occidental and Well Done Liberia to marry their efforts.

“Hearing about Occidental’s water theme for the year just made it seem like a perfect opportunity to build a well. And it would have Occidental College’s name right on it,” Mortazavi said. “It would be so great for this community.”

Mortazavi eventually presented his idea to the Emerging Leader’s coordinators, including Sophomore ASOC senator and Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) major Christopher Weeks. Though his pitch didn’t end up with backing from the Emerging Leaders program, the connection with Weeks proved fruitful.

“I had basically given up on building a well, but I was chatting with [Weeks] in the parking lot in Berkus Hall, and he suggested it be brought to ASOC,” Mortazavi said.

Weeks explained to Mortazavi that ASOC can be a resource for students hoping to plan an event.

“A lot of students have great ideas, and ASOC is able to provide the financial ability and help with the logistical work to make events happen,” Weeks said.

ASOC’s Vice President of External Affairs and economics major William Huang (junior) set to work bringing a formal proposal for the event to the ASOC senate meeting. Over the next several weeks, Huang, Weeks and Mortazavi collaborated to make Date Night Done Well a reality.

“I really liked the idea, so I invited [Mortazavi] to bring the idea to ASOC and showed him what things needed to be done,” Huang said.

The proposal by Huang and Mortazavi received approval from ASOC, and soon thereafter the duo began to hammer out final details for the event, including securing Mortazavi’s new Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brothers as volunteer waitstaff.

“We wanted a restaurant feel on campus. I’m really grateful my Phi Psi brothers can help me out,” Mortazavi said.

Mortazavi hopes the event can be annual, and that it expand to benefit other charities as well. Meanwhile, Huang was excited about the potential impact of this year’s event.

“With these wells, one dollar saves one life. Students are just having dinner and they will be making an impact,” Huang said.