Wine, moonshine and help for our neighbors

Karen Sproles and Charlie Daniel. She’s Don Sproles’ widow and he’s a longtime Volunteer Ministry Center board member.

Volunteer Ministry Center, a non-profit organization founded more than 35 years ago to prevent and end homelessness, has found a way to combine fun and fundraising — and honor a longtime benefactor in the process.

The group recently hosted the 11th annual Don Sproles Wine and Shine, an event that crammed as much fun as you possibly can into a three-hour span! There was a wine tasting, a moonshine tasting, live music, a silent auction, a live auction — and dinner! — in a fast-moving evening. Throw in popular Knoxville newspaper columnist and humorist Sam Venable as the emcee and the lively Bear Stephenson as the auctioneer, and you have quite a night!

The event was named for the late Don Sproles, an avid supporter of downtown Knoxville and the Volunteer Ministry Center, where he served on the board of directors for many years. Sproles loved good food and drink and he would have loved this evening.

Sugarlands Distilling Company provided the ’shine and the Farragut restaurant Water Into Wine curated the wine tasting. The Crowne Plaza, where the event was held, also was a sponsor.

Benny Smith, left, and Megan Venable with her parents, Mary Ann and Sam Venable. Sam had emcee duties at the event.

There was a wide variety of silent and live auction items. Like this cute Smokey pillow.

I loved the quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

It was a happy crowd during the social and bidding hour.

The music by, from left, Bailey George, “Jukebox Jess” and Jason Hicks was a beautiful backdrop. (There will be a short snippet of the music at the end of this post.)

Hoyt and Marilyn Canady, pictured during the social hour.

Amanda Thompson and Adam Velasco. She’s one of Karen and Don Sproles’ two daughters.

Cute handmade dolls were up for bid.

So were box seats at the Ice Bears!

Pat Shope, left, and Joanne Kennedy.

From left, Kim Eisenberg, Mary Beth Ramey and Shay Witt. Ramey is chief development officer of Volunteer Ministry Center.

Autographed books by Sam Venable.

An antique rocking chair with stool.

Sam Venable and Rosa Mar.

From left, Alan Carmichael, Duane Grieve and Lillian and John Mashburn.

I was happy this Patricia Nash purse was in the silent auction. In fact, I went home with it!

This metal flag in the shape of the United States was cool.

Mona Nair was there with Municipal Judge John Rosson.

From left, Charlie Daniel, Duane Grieve and Sam Venable.

Soon it was time to be seated.

Volunteer Ministry Center CEO Chris Cowart welcomed everyone.

Here were the wine pairings.

Candace Viox, the convivial owner of Water Into Wine, led us through them.

This black octopus ceviche was paired with a 2021 Levendi rose of Pinot Noir Nicoletta from Napa Valley.

The herbed goat cheese crostini with fig and prosciutto had a 2020 Pagos del Rey Rias Baixas Albarino Pulpo as its mate. Delish.

Chimichurri chicken lollipops were paired with 2020 Crios Cabernet Sauvignon.

And black garlic aioli with grilled peaches and mint got a 2020 Emmolo Merlot.

Madeline Greer, left, with Charlie and Patsy Daniel. We appreciated Charlie, my old work colleague from the Knoxville Journal, putting us at his table.

The buffet opened so we could get some solid food after that wine! Here’s Alan’s plate.

From left, Mary Fran Darwin, Angie Carney and Chris Kahn.

Volunteer Ministry Center board member John Buckingham introduced a short tribute to Don Sproles.

And then, Abbey Roberts, tastemaker at Sugarlands Distilling, was ready to lead us through the moonshine tasting.

We had moonshine cookies to pair them with. From left, PGA Championship Lemonade, Mark Rogers’ American Peach, Appalachian Apple Pie, Peanut Butter Sippin’ Cream and Banana Pudding Sippin’ Cream. Wow!

JD and Linda Sullivan.

John and Beth Thurman.

Auctioneer Bear Stephenson in action selling items ranging from UT football game experiences to rounds of golf, Smoky Mountain hikes and a day on Norris Lake, among other things.

It was a fun-filled evening for a very deserving organization. Here’s a sample of the musical talent:



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4 Responses to Wine, moonshine and help for our neighbors

  1. Betty Sue Sparks, on August 22nd, 2023 at 2:57 pm said:

    Wow, it seems like such a fun event! It’s great to see Megan Venable in the picture. Just like you, Cynthia, she’s amazing at taking photos of everyone else. Also, that Patricia Nash purse is lovely.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on August 22nd, 2023 at 3:08 pm said:

    Betty Sue: I think you all would really like this event! We should round up the Lenns and the Turners and go next year! Glad you like the purse – you’ll probably be seeing me with it!

  3. Gay Lyons, on August 23rd, 2023 at 11:35 am said:

    I used to go to this event. Need to get back in the habit. Looks like a lot of fun for a good cause. And love that purse!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on August 23rd, 2023 at 11:46 am said:

    Gay: It was a really good time for a great cause with some wonderful people! Hope you can make it next year!

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