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Raising a glass, while raising money

| Thursday, April 16, 2009

They'll pour the wine just in time to help two good causes Saturday in Laube Hall, Freeport.

Proceeds from A-K Pulser's fourth annual Spring Wine, Cheese & Pasta Festival will add to both the new vehicle fund and the campaign for the Alle-Kiski Medical Center's emergency room remodeling and expansion project.

Jeff Polana, director of pre-hospital services, which includes A-K Pulser, the hospital-based paramedic response unit, sees the popular event as a win for everyone.

"Come and enjoy yourself, get your money's worth, meet new friends and help enhance emergency medical services in the communities we all live in and update and add on to the emergency department we all use," he says. "What better way to help an excellent cause and fill your stomach at the same time?"

The $25 admission seems to stretch far.

At the event, everyone will receive a wine glass they can take home. Also awaiting are wines from two local vineyards -- Winfield Winery in Cabot, and Windgate in Smicksburg -- and eight tables of international and Napa wines to sample; a pasta bar, meat-carving station, imported cheeses and dessert table.

"It's a great price. Not only can they do wine tasting, but have the evening to put some delicious food into their bellies," Polana says. Non-alcoholic beverages are available.

Many people come and make a night of it, he says.

It is all set in the one-of-a-kind ambiance of Laube Hall, he says, with its beamed ceiling, a lit fireplace and a pianist providing the soundtrack. "It is an inviting building," he says.

Silent and Chinese auctions will be held, with prizes including a "Chocolate Explosion" basket, an electric temperature-controlled wine cooler and more.

Suggested attire is "casual to business."

The festival resulted from a brainstorming session among paramedics, says Polana, who is still a licensed paramedic. "We asked ourselves, 'What can we do that is unique, a fundraiser that brings people together for a relaxing evening and some fellowship?'" he says.

They decided to hold it on the first Saturday after Easter every year because some people wanted to know the date a year in advance, he says.

"We always have positive feedback. People ask if we can have it more often," Polana says.

He is grateful to the local businesses sponsoring wine tables and donating other goods and services.

A-K Pulser is owned by the medical center and 14 ambulance services covering Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong and Butler counties.

It was formed 20 years ago out of a paramedic shortage. "You can look at it as a paramedic on wheels that meets the ambulance on the scene to provide advance life support," Polana says.

He estimates that the Pulser unit has responded to more than 55,000 calls since its inception.

That, say festival organizers, merits raising a glass in celebration.

Additional Information:

A-K Pulser Spring Wine, Cheese and Pasta Festival

When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Laube Hall, Freeport Community Park, Freeport

Admission: $25

Details: 724-226-7041

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