A great mix of different kinds of food, fine wines, exuberant "gourmet guys" (and their sous chefs), and an excellent cause: Mix them all together in a beautiful venue and you get "Grapes and Gourmet Guys," the popular fundraiser now in its ninth year, sponsored by The GriefCare Place, headquartered in Stow, on Sept. 13.

"Over 20 area male leaders will compete in cooking their favorite culinary creations. Patrons will sample the prepared foods, as well as wine. Then they will vote, along with local service organizations' presidents functioning as judges, to determine the 'People's Choice,' the 'Judges' Choice,' the 'Show Me the Money' award, and this year we're adding the 'Selfie Award,'" said Tony Cocozzo, co-chair of "Grapes and Gourmet Guys."

"We're even more excited this year, since Phil Martucci, retired director of Special Education for the Cuyahoga Falls School District and University of Akron professor, as well as former GriefCare Place board member, is serving as our Honorary Chair and keynote speaker," added Lauran Weber, event co-chair.

The "Men in Black," male members of The GriefCare Place Board of Trustees, will serve as hosts/guides/assistants at the event, scheduled for Sept. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the St. George Family Center, 3204 Ridgewood Road, in Akron.

Several of the award winners of past years will return to defend their past glories, but more than 20 other men would love to take the crown(s) themselves. The Hudson School of Music Jazz Trio will entertain throughout the evening.

"All of these men are accomplished cooks in their own kitchens, and we're truly delighted that they've agreed to let the public get a taste of their gourmet sides," said Christine Reinhard, executive director of The GriefCare Place.

"More importantly, they're helping The GriefCare Place fulfill its mission of providing a safe place where grievers gather together, under the guidance of a facilitator, to educate, encourage, and uplift one another throughout the healing journey," said Lou-Ann Redmon, founding director and bereavement facilitator of The GriefCare Place.

"Grapes and Gourmet Guys" tickets are $60 ($450 for a table of eight) and include two glasses of wine, both silent and oral auctions, a wine pull, entertainment and one "Show Me the Money" vote.

Attendees will also enjoy free samples of all the Gourmet Guys' culinary creations. $41 of the ticket price is tax deductible.

All proceeds benefit The GriefCare Place and its wide variety of programming.

For tickets or information call The GriefCare Place at 330-686-1750.

This Year's 'Guys'

Just who are this year's "Gourmet Guys?" This list includes Magistrate Ron Cable, Jacob Derenthal, Father Norm Douglas, Steve French of WNIR, Tom Loepp, Judge Todd McKenney, Stephen Moushey, John Pribonic, Gavin Scott, Judge Tom Teodosio, Greg Hullinger, Bob Pacanovsky, and Ron Coleman, just to name a few. Other chefs were applying at press time.

Since The GriefCare Place focuses on service to grievers, the judges this year will be presidents or general board chairs of various local service organizations. Judges include Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce Board President Jim Laber, Lions Club president Candace Hudec; Rotary Club president Katie Wright, Kiwanis Club president Cindy Lewis, and SMF Community Foundation Board President Marty Tass. Judges can be bribed -- yes, it's perfectly acceptable

The GriefCare Place offers a strong, progressive variety of grief care programs, and it provides caring volunteers who walk alongside and companion the grievers during the grieving/healing process. It is unique in northeast Ohio because its sole mission is to support those grieving the loss of a loved one from the time of death through the entire grief process, however long.

The GriefCare Place charges no fees and is funded entirely by fundraising events, donations, and memorial gifts. Since it is a charitable, non-profit organization, all donations are tax-deductible under IRS Section 501(c)(3).

Since 1997, The GriefCare Place has grown to serve over 10,000 adults, adolescents, and children from over 66 communities in Ohio. Its foundation is a trained, volunteer-led, free-of-charge, peer-support groups, working in collaboration with its Clinical Advisory Board and referrals from many sources, including churches, schools, professional offices, hospices, and social service agencies. It is at 4499 Darrow Road in Stow. For information call 330-686-1750 or visit the website at www.thegriefcareplace.org.