A group of volunteers largely representing The Chautauqua Center can now be found at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park during home football games.
Money raised Sundays will ultimately help fund a new charity arm of the organization that provides health care services with locations in Jamestown and Dunkirk.
On Sunday, Dec. 19, the volunteers worked a consession stand — known as Buffalo BBQ for its pulled pork sandwiches — for the Buffalo Bills home game against the Carolina Panthers. The Bills won 31-14.
In all, there were 14 people in the group, of which 75% were staff at The Chautauqua Center.
“Well it was really a lot of fun because we had never done it before,” said Sarah Gilbert, director of fundraising and community relations.
Toward the end of 2019, The Chautauqua Center established a foundation to serve as the fundraising arm of the organization, known as the Waterfront Foundation. The name, Gilbert said, comes from the center’s proximity to water at both ends of the county — Jamestown being close to the Chadakoin River and Dunkirk with its new health center close to Lake Erie.
The foundation is still awaiting its official nonprofit designation.
Gilbert said Delaware North Sportservice allows nonprofit organizations to raise funds by volunteering to sell concessions during Bills games and other events. She said the program started almost 30 years ago and has raised millions of dollars in donations for organizations across the country.
In exchange for volunteering, The Chautauqua Center — and eventually the Waterfront Foundation — receives a flat fee per game, 3% commission on sales and all donations secured on gameday. She said the group hopes to raise up to $8,000 per game to benefit the health center through a variety of programs.
“It’s a great fundraiser and great team-building experience for us, too,” Gilbert said.
The Dec. 19 home game at Highmark Stadium was the first for the local volunteer group. Gilbert said she received some training a week earlier and helped train the group that Sunday on various tasks, including running the cash register and preparing the food. Members had to get to the stadium at 8:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. kickoff.
Volunteers, along with a few friends and family of staff at The Chautauqua Center, will work the two remaining Bills home games Jan. 2 and Jan. 9 as well as any home playoff games. Gilbert is hopeful the group will then become regulars each home game next year and moving forward.
She said the team is located at concession stand 131. The stand also sells hotdogs, beer, hot chocolate and other fan favorites.