PROOST: Geerten Lengkeek with John Maxwell (partly obscured), Brent Whibley, Frances and John Galbraith and Tony Hawken raise their glasses to a great fundraising effort. Photo supplied

ENOUGH money was raised to deliver life saving emergency shelter aid to 360 displaced Syrian families at a special dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf Cafe last week.

The five-course degustation dinner matched with single malt whiskies and carefully selected wines raised $9000 for ReliefAid.

This New Zealand based charity delivers essential aid to families displaced by war in Northern Syria.

ReliefAid founder Mike Seawright is currently at the Turkish-Syrian border. He was connected with the guests in Ohope via internet link and told the audience his team had just finished cross-loading 19 trucks with more than 100,000 items of aid.

“This will keep them alive in the harsh winter conditions. It is a special thing to want to help families on the other side of the world. Most importantly, the families know they are not forgotten and are remembered.”

It is not the first time the Whakatane and Ohope communities have rallied together for this cause. For the past three years, WhaleAid has held ocean swimming fundraisers.

This year, shocked by the ongoing plight of refugees in Syria, Ohope’s Tom McGuire, owner of Fisherman’s Wharf Café and the directors of Whakatane-based consultancy firm Productivity People, Geerten Lengkeek and Liddy Bakker joined forces once again to reach out to families that are suffering as a result of this brutal conflict.

Geerten says this time around Tom had asked chef Craig Searle to develop a menu matching five carefully selected Scottish single malt whiskies.

“The food was exquisite, with Craig matching the vanilla and orange notes of Auchentoshan single malt with a grilled vegetable terrine, and the earthy and peaty Caol Ila with blue cheese, truffle honey and homemade oat biscuits.”

An auction of donated, fine whiskies and memorabilia, including a trip with flights and accommodation for two to attend DramFest in Christchurch, raised almost $4000.

Through its partnership with ShelterBox, ReliefAid delivers $250 worth of blankets, tarpaulins, cookers, solar lights, mattresses and other essential items to families in need for every $25 raised – life saving aid that will help families survive the harsh winter months living in tents.

Organiser and whisky pourer on the night, Liddy says feedback from the night has been superb. “We live in a special place, and our community coming together for another community on the other side of the world is a very special thing.”

Tony and Margaret Hawken emailed their appreciation of the event: “Great night thanks, there was a real positive vibe from everyone there, very well organised and the food and whisky were outstanding.”