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'The Taste 2024' Fundraiser Smashes Records, Raises Over $206,000


Rockford Education Foundation's 'The Taste' Fundraiser Smashes Records, Raises Over $206,000

Rockford, March 7, 2024 – The Rockford Education Foundation (REF) celebrates a monumental success with the 7th annual 'The Taste' fundraiser held at The Gilmore event venue on Thursday, March 7. The event had an extraordinary turnout with over 325 attendees, marking it as the largest gathering in the event's history.

The Taste’s success was made possible by the support of many local sponsors, among them GMB Architecture + Engineering, the presenting sponsor. The generosity of all sponsors played a vital role in the event's success.

Thirteen restaurants generously donated their food and time, participating in the event to offer attendees samples of their cuisine. This marked the first year since 2020 that restaurants could participate in the event due to the pandemic's impact. The lineup included Archival Brewing, Bier Distillery, Blue Water, Bostwick Lake Inn, Cannonsburg Village, Cedar Springs Brewing Company, Flo's Pizzeria Ristorante and Sports Bar, Gilmore Catering, Herman's Boy, Le Macaron, The Score, The Toasted Pickle, Third Nature Brewing Co., and Uccello's Ristorante

Adding to the vibrant atmosphere, local band Brena, a West Michigan favorite, and DJ Whitney Who delivered electrifying performances that kept attendees entertained throughout the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the remarkable fundraising achievement, with over $206,000 raised through sponsorship, ticket sales, live auction, and the fund-a-need paddle raise—a noteworthy $80,000 increase from the previous year. The proceeds will support REF's mission to provide educational grants to staff, teachers, and students of the Rockford community.

Notably, over $83,000 of the total raised will be allocated to the REF Essential Needs Fund, designed to assist families and children with unmet basic needs identified by Rockford Public Schools staff. Examples of support include medical and dental assistance, secure housing, mental wellness support, and basic needs such as food and clothing.


Beth Meyer-Kraff, REF's Executive Director, expressed heartfelt gratitude on behalf of REF staff and Trustees, saying, "We're truly thankful for the incredible success of The Taste and the amazing support from our Rockford community. Your generosity shows how Rockford comes together for our schools and kids. Together, we are making a real difference." 

For those unable to attend The Taste, there are still many opportunities to support REF's mission. The organization's annual "Rockford Eats" gift card fundraiser, benefiting Rockford schools while supporting local restaurants, is scheduled for April 2024. This presents an excellent chance for community members to contribute.

For more information about REF and its initiatives, please visit


Beth Meyer-Kraff
Executive Director
Rockford Education Foundation
Phone: 616-863-6317