That’s Amore

Our Community’s Creative Answer to Supporting Our Mission
Candace Miller, FCNI CRD Coordinator
January, 18, 2017 -

Last year, we began a partnership with the creative minds behind Zest it Up, a local catering and event planning company. Owners, Chanda Brown and Samantha Nason, came to us in early 2016 with the idea of putting on a series of pop-up dinners to not only help up raise funds, but to also raise community awareness and exposure to the work and heart behind our mission. The idea to accomplish this by hosting pop-up dinners stemmed from the popularity of popping up a restaurant for one night only in a unique location, something done in larger cities but not yet done with any regularity in San Luis Obispo County. These dinners would be a creative way to connect our community with us like never before, Zest it Up explaining, “Community is contagious and the strength that comes from it is boundless. This strength is the kind that lifts up those who struggle and knits them more intricately into the fabric of our community. Those without a voice, are given a voice.” By creating a series of fundraising events for us, Zest it Up were also able to achieve their goal to “dive deeper and call more people out to connect and support FCNI.” 

Zest it Up held its first pop-up dinner in November 2016 at the See Canyon Fruit Ranch. Themed “Friendsgiving”, the goal of this first event was to bring together community members for an enjoyable evening while raising awareness of who we are and the work that we do. The magical evening began with cocktails and appetizers on the lower lawn of See Canyon Fruit Ranch while the Shawn Clark Family Band entertained guest with original songs and old favorites. The fun then moved into the barn with an amazing five course meal created and prepared by Chanda and Samantha, with each course being partnered with a local wine donated by Lone Madrone, Justin Winery and Bianchi Winery. Dessert, Napoleons filled with Frangelico cream, caramel apples and toasted hazelnuts, was made and donated by the women at Paper Cake Events. Beautifully crafted wood designs were also donated to the event by If You Give a Girl a Saw and were used as giveaway items throughout the night.

This first “Friendsgiving” event was a huge success in more ways than one. Not only did Zest it Up raise almost $4,000 for us, but they brought together a group of strangers for a spectacular evening, one guest exclaiming, “It was one of the most incredible nights I've ever experienced. I've already purchased four tickets for the next one in February!” These pop-up dinners offer guests a very unique experience, inviting them to laugh and connect with one another, while also learning more about the needs of our community’s children, youth and families impacted by trauma.  Every evening includes stories about those we serve, helping demonstrate to guests how vital their participation is in serving our community’s most vulnerable—in hearing the stories, they are able to share in successes that they helped make possible.

We are so excited to partner with the ladies of Zest it Up for another Zesty Pop-Up Dinner on Friday, February 17th. Themed “That’s Amore” after the famous Italian phrase made popular by a Dean Martin song in the 1950s, it’ll be an evening to celebrate love and loved ones. The Zest it Up team selected this theme as a reminder of how important it is to remember those who need love the most. Many of the children, youth and families we serve have been impacted by trauma in ways that most people can’t comprehend. But we can all stand with them, supporting their efforts to heal and find their ways in this world. We invite you to participate in the upcoming Zesty Pop-Up Dinner, as it’s the perfect opportunity to share a meal with the ones you love while also partnering with our mission to enhance lives. Join us on February 17th at another soon-to-be-revealed location in SLO County to celebrate “That’s Amore!” Bring a date, bring a mate or fly solo! Tickets and more information are available at