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Under the overcast evening skies, a stronger than usual breeze led me toward a big white tent with twinkling lights. Inside the tent, a jovial air floated around the guests, who were wearing black and white spring attire and making lively conversation with fellow neighbors. Wine and small plates of local food were served while The Backbeat Band played funky dancing tunes in the background. The ninth annual Wine and Tapas gala was in full swing.

The city of Bellaire's highly anticipated event is hosted by the Patrons for Bellaire Parks every year. The organization's goal is “to build and revitalize parks and green spaces to be treasured by the many thousands of people from Bellaire and surrounding communities that use Bellaire parks every year." Since the inception of the event, the nonprofit has raised $1.6 million.

This year’s green space of honor was Evergreen Park, an adorable green oasis tucked inside of the neighborhood on Newcastle and Evergreen, just south of the Nature Discovery Center. The park, and particularly the pool, needs to be renovated. Raising the funds for the park came in several forms throughout the evening. Aside from ticket sales, the silent auction dominated the first half of the evening. While sipping on their wine of choice, guests could stroll and view the many baskets created and donated by patrons, suited for all ages. I was tempted to place a bid on a basket full of board games. For the first time this year, bids were placed electronically, a true sign of the times.

Some of the much bigger prizes were auctioned off traditionally by the emcees of the night, Tom Koch and retired anchor Don Nelson of ABC 13 News. You could feel the competition in the air as competing bids were placed amongst friends. I’ve never been to a live auction before, but Nelson sounded like a true auctioneer. After the silent auction, guests mingled on the Great Lawn and cut a rug on the dance floor.

The highlight of the night for me was meeting the Patrons committee members. I was visibly tickled when they came across my familiar face. You see, by day I am a barista, donning a green apron and making coffee for Houstonians. I was pleasantly surprised to discover some of my regular customers are a part of the organization. When I introduced myself formally, I developed a newfound respect for these committee members. In the age of Netflix, social media and the internet in your pocket, it’s much easier to stay inside and let the world pass you by. They are committed to their neighborhood and preserving the green spaces for everyone to enjoy.

I was instantly inspired. Houston should take a few notes from this small city within the city. Until then, cheers to the upkeep of Bellaire’s green spaces. I encourage Houstonians near and far to support their local parks.

bellaireparks.orghoustontx.gov/parks

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