Yummy things were cooking at Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen last week, all in the name of a good cause.
Owner Carmen Lassooij and her staff hosted their annual Grilled Cheese Day fundraiser April 14 for the ALS Society of BC & Yukon.
Hosted in the shop’s recently expanded space in recognition of National Grilled Cheese Day, the ooey-gooey sandwiches were available by donation to the society, alongside house-made ketchup and hot tomato soup.
“It’s for a very dear customer of ours who passed away very quickly and who was with us since the beginning in 2003,” Lassooij said.
Lassooij is also this year’s individual recipient of the ALS Exceptional Fundraising Program Award. The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society of B.C. recognized her contribution to support people living with ALS through last year’s Grilled Cheese Day collection of almost $2,000 – an achievement reached by all those involved with the event, she emphasizes.
“Carmen’s contribution is greatly appreciated,” Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of BC, said in presenting the award, which celebrates excellence in fundraising programs implemented in the past 12 months. “This support provides hope for people affected by ALS.”
In addition to the ALS fundraiser, Charelli’s is also a big supporter of Victoria Hospice, with several fundraisers throughout the year for that organization. This past Christmas, Charelli’s staff and customers helped raise $5,000 for a young family whose father was in hospice care. Not only were they able to provide a generous gift basket for the holidays, but also help with funeral expenses afterward. “That couldn’t have been done without the support from everybody in this community,” Lassooij said.
Her connection to Victoria Hospice is also personal.
“Mom and dad were both in hospice care and they did an incredible job,” Lassooij said, noting other staff also have direct experience with the local organization’s services. “Hospice is very important to us.”
Lineups for Thursday’s grilled cheese were a little easier to organize this year, thanks to the shop’s recently expanded space, now about 1,000 square feet, Lassooij said. “It was always the plan,” she noted, acknowledging some customers were concerned the small but busy shop, which sells a variety of specialty foods, in addition to all manner of cheese and deli items, would lose its quaint character.
“Don’t worry, we’re not going to get rid of our charm,” she said.
The expanded space allows for more catering services, while the centre area now also sells some higher-end kitchenware and bartending items, receiving raves from the cocktail crowd, Lassooij said. It also offers space for after-hours events, fundraisers and wine, beer and cocktail education evenings.