Eat chocolate, help your neighbors, what more could you ask for?
Not much according to the hundreds of local residents who came out to participate in the 26th Annual Chocolate Festival at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Westford on Saturday, Feb. 10.
Less than a half-hour into the four-hour event, more than 100 people had passed through the church hall's double doors. They packed into the St. Mark's event room lining up for treats from the groups, some participating for the last 20 years. The money donated at the door is being given to the Westford Food Pantry, the Open Pantry of Greater Lowell and will go towards future outreach projects through the church.
According to St. Mark's Rev. Suzanne Wade, the early return totals from this year's event were approximately $6,000, matching last year's total donations. In 2017 she said they has 400 residents come and taste the various treat, some even hoping to find the ones from years past they had loved the most.
"This is the biggest thing that we do," said Wade taking a break from the action in the sanctuary. "It is an all-hands-on-deck kind of activity. I don’t think there is anyone at St. Mark’s who is not helping. It has definitely become a tradition."
She said the history of the festival started in the early 1990s and was "very small," compared to the years to come. She said at one point the event grew to the point that more than 1,000 people were coming and the group was renting at local space at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center.
Wade said a few years ago the group moved the festival back to the church in the effort to spend less of the money on space and donate more to the causes they had been supporting for years.
When asked if they set monetary goals for each festival, Wade said the group "Takes whatever God will send us."
Chrissy Hemingway, festival co-coordinator with fellow parishioner Janis Marcotte said most of the treats are made by the people in the church.
"It is a huge undertaking," said Hemingway, Marcotte popping in to give them an update of the festival, and an impromptu review on one of the chocolates offered.
Wade said many of the raffle baskets offered that afternoon included good from 30 businesses from around the area. Thanking everyone for taking part in the day.