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Mannequin challenge accepted: Cornerstone Services Champagne Luncheon in 26th year

The lights are twinkling and the ballroom is buzzing from wall to wall as the waiter fills a glass with foam-topped champagne for a woman seated at a table with two of her friends. The afternoon soon sped into action with laughter and cheer swirling in a sea of fine china and crystal.

The festivities at the Nov. 23 event at the Patrick C. Haley Mansion, 17 S. Center St. in Joliet, marked the 26th annual Champagne Luncheon to support Cornerstone Services.

A number of community leaders and guests poured in to giveback to the agency.

Highlights at the event included live entertainment, dinner and an auction.

Vice President/Chief Development Officer Michelle Allen said holding the event is a great way kickoff to the holiday season.

“We have waiters that come out and they’re celebrity waiters, so they ask people for tips,” she said. “We have a stage in the center of the room. A lot of people at the table will tip to get their waiter do something silly. So, maybe it’s singing a song, maybe it’s juggling balls, maybe it’s try to hula-hoop. But with that, we’re earning money for it in order to help our agency, which works with people with developmental disabilities.”

Among those serving as celebrity waiters this year were a number of elected officials and business professionals. Allen said having the community’s support is important to the agency.

“It’s really nice, too, because we see a lot of people that support our agency throughout the year, who come in and assist us and help us earn those dollars especially in the state budget crisis,” she said.

Chad Kodiak, a pharmacist at Kodo Pharmacy, was one of 30 celebrity waiters providing guests with entertainment. He said he was enjoying his time at the luncheon and that he’s pleased to help support the agency in raising funds.

“They called me up and asked me to tell a joke,” he said.

Kodiak said it was a fun experience to take center stage and tell the room a mushroom joke.

“That definitely got some laughs and some groans, which is the kind of joke that it is,” he said.

Kodiak said it makes him happy to see the community of support shown for Cornerstone Services. The event’s turnout is always a positive to see, he said.

“This is my fourth year doing it, and I just think it’s incredible that this many people show up to help this organization,” he said.

Maura Williams, banquet manager at Joliet Country Club, was serving as a celebrity waitress at this year’s fundraiser. She said helping the agency in this capacity was nice.

“(It’s) more fun than I thought it would be,” she said. “It’s a blast.”

As part of her opening act, Williams sang the alphabet backwards to the crowd. She said she thinks the crowd had a good laugh.

“I’m not a singer,” she said.

Williams said it’s important for people to support the agency.

“Cornerstone is a wonderful organization,” she said. “We have a cousin that lives in one of the Cornerstone houses. They do wonderful things.”

Pam George, a Harrah’s Casino employee, was in attendance for the luncheon to support her co-worker, Mike Sartore. She said she was having a good time.

“Mike did some juggling and Mike sang his favorite Elvis song,” she said.

George said she and her co-workers were having fun paying Sartore to perform.

George’s co-worker, Angela Scurbis said she wasn’t surprised by Sartore’s performance.

“We paid him to stop because we’ve heard him sing before,” she said. “But, that’s OK because he expects that.”

This year’s event drew in more than 300 people.

On average, the fundraiser brings in between $20,000 and $25,000.

The hope, according to Allen, is that people learn more about Cornerstone Services and how they can help.

Sponsors for this year’s event included First Midwest Bank, HL Landscape and Veronica Ferro Interiors.

For more information on Cornerstone Services, visit

Cornerstone Services is a member agency of the United Way of Will County.

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