Barrel Full of Money

Members from the Barrel Full of Money steering commmittee present a check to Blue Mountain Action Council on December 15, 2016. From left to right: Trevor Dorland, Cindy Widmer, Ashley Riggs, Jeff Mathais, Kathy Covey, Philippe Michel, Kari Palmer.

A “load the barrel” ceremony Thursday kicks off the local wine industry’s eighth annual fundraiser for the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank.

Wineries team up with a cluster of other businesses and nonprofit organizations for the two-month Barrel Full of Money collaborative fundraiser to fight hunger.

This year’s event includes a December auction and wine reception with live music.

The efforts launch Thursday in a 5 p.m. ceremony at Olive Marketplace & Cafe. Guests will be treated to a sparkling wine toast and get to be among the first to drop cash into a barrel donation vessel that serves as the namesake for the fundraiser, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance announced.

Donations from the campaign, which runs through Dec. 14, purchase bulk food and perishables for those in need.

Since its start in 2011, Barrel Full of Money has raised more than $127,000 — the value of 635,000 meals for local families.

According to the announcement, the local food bank distributes more than 870,000 pounds of food through pantries in Walla Walla County every year.

“The community’s collaboration and generosity are how the Food Bank is able to return $6 in food assistance for every dollar donated,” said Food Bank Director Jeff Mathias in a prepared statement. “The money raised through Barrel Full of Money significantly contributes to our ability to purchase bulk food items and perishables which help balance out the non-perishables that are donated from a variety of other sources each year.”

The fundraiser is a collaborative effort by Alaska Airlines, The Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, Olive Catering, Columbia REA, Baker Boyer Bank, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Elkhorn Media Group, Blue Mountain Action Council and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and its members.

For this year’s fundraiser, a wine barrel donation vessel will be set up at Olive and at Big House Brewpub. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 14.

The annual auction and wine reception moves to a Friday this year. On Dec. 14, Dunham Cellars hosts the event, which includes live music from Debra Arlyn & The Goodness. Heavy appetizers and wine will be served at the $50-per-person event. Tickets bump up to $60 apiece after Nov. 6. For the auction portion, local businesses will donate special wine bottles, products and other unique experiences upon which guests can bid.

Donation canister will be places at various wineries and businesses until after Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, Dec. 7-9.

Alaska Airlines continues its support with the donation of two round-trip airline tickets to anywhere Alaska flies. The tickets will be given away as the grand prize in a raffle. The second prize is a one-night stay in a Luxury Tower Suite at The Marcus Whitman Hotel and an $80 dining voucher at The Marc Restaurant. Five hundred raffle tickets will be printed and sold at $10 each. They are available from Barrel Full of Money steering committee members or by calling the Blue Mountain Action Council at 509-529-4980.

The raffle drawing will take place during the Dec. 14 auction at Dunham Cellars. Participants need not be present to win.

Online donations are accepted at or

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.