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Laurie Jervis: CASE for Kids Utilizes New Wine Club to Help Fund CASA of Santa Barbara County

Winemaker Doug Margerum is co-owner and curator of C4K, a newly formed wine club, which will direct a portion of its proceeds to support the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County. Click to view larger
Winemaker Doug Margerum is co-owner and curator of C4K, a newly formed wine club, which will direct a portion of its proceeds to support the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

A new Santa Barbara County organization hopes to change the way nonprofit groups raise funds.

The Child Advocates Social Enterprise for Kids — CASE for Kids — is a subsidiary of longtime organization CASA of Santa Barbara County, or Court Appointed Special Advocates.

In what a local winemaker involved with the effort calls a “win-win- win,” the CASE for Kids has launched a wine club to help CASA reduce dependence on charitable giving in a region where nonprofits compete for every dollar.

Founded in June, the CASE wine club is called C4K, or CASE 4 Kids. It is owned and operated by Wine Club Processing, a locally based wine fulfillment business that has set its sights on social entrepreneurship and sustainability within Santa Barbara County.

Kady Fleckenstein, its chief operating officer, told me the wine club adheres to the business models of combined affinity marketing and social impact.

Its members opt to financially support an organization that aligns with their personal objectives. In this case, that means bettering the lives of at-risk children in the local court system.

“We are very excited about this new wine club, and I hope people find its value proposition as compelling as I do,” said Patty Santiago, president of the CASA Board of Directors. 

“We had been working on a new method to generate business income for the last several years. However, with the sensitive nature of our program and the requirements of our court-ordered confidentiality agreement made it very difficult.”

While utilizing wine clubs to promote or fund for-profit or nonprofit organizations is not a new concept, CASA is likely to see big results simply based on its proximity to Santa Barbara County’s finest winemakers.

“CASA of Santa Barbara County had been searching for a membership-based business concept to provide sustainable financial resources for the program,” said Tony Papa, chairperson of CASA’s enterprise committee.

Longtime local winemaker and negociant Doug Margerum and two other principals, Tony Hirsch and Steve Lipp, are co-founders and owners of the umbrella organization of C4K.

All three bring years of experience in the global marketing of beverages; Margerum opened the Wine Cask wine shop in 1981, and in 2001 launched Margerum Wine Company.

No pun intended, but “C4K makes a good case” for bringing fine wines directly to the wine-buying public, Margerum told me.

“We eliminate three tiers in the process: the importer, the distributer and the retailer, and work directly with the consumer. Many of our club members are people who cook at home and want to share good wine with friends,” he said.

With his years of experience tasting wine in the South of France and cultivating wine contacts there and, more recently, in Croatia and Slovenia, Margerum can cull wines from around the world for the club, he said.

Pair him with sommeliers such as Rajat Parr, Brian McClintic and Catherine Fallis, to name just a few, and the members of C4K can sample hand-curated wines of the world without leaving their kitchens.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be working with some of the best sommeliers in the industry, who love the idea of bring hard-to-find, quality wines to the public for a great cause,” Fleckenstein said.

“Our hope is that by working with local companies and supporters, we are able to work together as a community to convey our message, which is ‘Drink Wine. Do Good.’”

“Buying world-class wines and helping others in the process — it’s a win-win- win” situation, Margerum said.

Kim Davis, executive director of CASA, said she wasted no time in joining C4K.

“I was excited to be one of the first members of C4K wine club. It makes a great gift for my husband, and I feel good every month knowing that a portion of our membership is helping to support an important organization as CASA.”

About CASA: It trains volunteers who are sworn in by a juvenile judge to help ensure every abused or neglected child finds a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. The role of a CASA volunteer is to act as an extra pair of eyes and ears for the court, collecting information through observation and interviews with key people in the child’s life before reporting back to the judge.

A CASA volunteer advocate speaks on behalf of the child in court. The volunteer meets with the child, family members, teachers, foster parents, and others involved in a foster child’s life. The volunteer gathers facts for the court and presents information before a judge in the best interest of the child.

Club details: Membership starts at $49.99 per month for three, six or 12 bottles of wine and shipping is included in all club deliveries. Like members in a typical wine club, those who join C4K are able to pick from a selection: Reds or whites only, or a collection that includes red, white, rosé, sparkling, fortified and dessert wines. Tasting and tech notes accompany each of the wines.

For more information, visit the C4K Wine Club website or email [email protected] 

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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