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The "Taste of Guatemala": Funding Clean Water since 2008

Thanks to the annual “Taste of Guatemala” event in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, supporting clean water is a community affair. Back in 2008, the Living Waters for the World water team born of a partnership between Elizabethtown Rotary Club and First Presbyterian Church Elizabethtown, had just completed their first two water system installations in Guatemala. As they sat around the dinner table and celebrated the work God had accomplished through them and their partners, they began to think ahead to how they could raise the money they would need to do it again. Inspired by the food they were eating, they came up with the idea for an event that would bring the tastes of Guatemala to Kentucky.

The Elizabethtown team during a 2017 visit to Guatemala.

Left to right, standing - Jim Barnard, Lucy Dunford, Bob Swope, Mayra Quevedo, and Noris Figueroa; seated - Peter Denton, Rubenia Sanchez, Michele Drake, and Skip Dunford.

Since the inaugural event in 2008, “Taste of Guatemala” has raised approximately $250,000 for the Elizabethtown team’s Living Waters for the World water mission. What began as a meal prepared and served by water team members has evolved into an event featuring 20-25 tasting items that are donated, cooked and served by local restaurants. Held at the Historic State Theater in downtown Elizabethtown, guests first move from station to station tasting Guatemalan cuisine, visiting with members of the water team, and mingling with other guests.

Guests enjoy good food and good company at the Taste of Guatemala.

Later they gather in the theater for a special musical performance, typically by a Kentucky-based ensemble, followed by a testimonial from a Guatemalan friend of the team. Team leader Bob Swope believes that hearing from a native Guatemalan is an important part of connecting his community to their LWW water mission. He said, “Our guests can better understand what these water projects mean to the communities they serve. It means more when it comes from someone whose daily life is affected by the clean water.”

Water team leader Bob Swope wears traditional Guatemalan clothing for the Taste of Guatemala.

At the conclusion of the event, guests are given an opportunity to make additional contributions as they are leaving the theater. Bob reported, “Usually we receive pocket change - $5, $10 or $20 - but every once in a while, there is a huge check. This year, we received a total of $5,000 in the five-gallon jug we use to collect the donations.”

But, the majority of the money comes from corporate sponsors. In the months leading up to the event, water team members contact local businesses to seek sponsors. This year, the team assembled a 16-page program booklet - fully donated by the printer. In it, they recognized all corporate sponsors of $500 or more, which included 38 sponsors making gifts ranging from $500 to more than $5,000! Additionally, ticket sales ($30 for adults, $20 for students) typically generate $6,000 - $8,000. In the end, after covering the cost of the theater rental and entertainment, the team nets around $33,000 in funds they use to support their LWW water mission.

At the ribbon cutting for the opening of an LWW system in Guatemala.

Left to right - Team leader Bob Swope, system operator Domingo Reynoso, and team members Jim Barnard and Peter Denton.

Not only does the "Taste of Guatemala" event sustain a water mission that brings clean water for a generation to Guatemalan communities, it also gives the people of Elizabethtown, Kentucky a chance to be part of this life-changing work. Whether they come to the event because they are interested in donating to a clean water project or just for good food and entertainment, guests learn about the team's Living Waters for the World projects and are invited to take part.

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