BY BARB BERGGOETZ
This February, during the annual LIFEDesigns Week of Chocolate, chocolate lovers can satisfy their sweet cravings while helping support people with developmental disabilities and other local charities.
“The event is a great way for us to spread awareness of our mission and the goals of our program,” says Stephanie Shelton, LIFEDesigns chief development officer. The nonprofit organization provides client services—such as employment and life skills, training and career exploration, and funds for supportive living and group homes—for about 450 clients with developmental disabilities in eight south-central Indiana counties.
Shelton says the Week of Chocolate started more than 20 years ago to help bridge the gap between Medicaid funds, which cover about 80 to 85 percent of LIFEDesigns’ expenses, and the actual cost of serving its growing number of clients. That gap, Shelton says, is now $400,000 annually.
Hundreds of guests are expected to enjoy dinners, music, dancing, cocktails, bingo, and, of course, chocolate during the celebration that has been extended to more than two weeks. This year’s “week” runs from February 1 to 17. Since 2015 the number of events has more than doubled and more businesses have financially sponsored the week and hosted chocolate-themed events. “I’m thrilled to death to see this grow,” Shelton says.
Events range from Chocolate Bingo at the Bloomington Moose Lodge to a day of pampering at Osman Chiropractic Center to A Taste of Romance dinner at Bell Trace Senior Living Center. These and many other events at venues across Bloomington financially benefit LIFEDesigns. Shelton says when nonprofit organizations, such as Rhino’s Youth Center, host events, they keep the proceeds, allowing other charitable organizations to benefit from the popularity of the Week of Chocolate.
The biggest event is the Art of Chocolate, a Mardi Gras–themed dinner with cocktails and music held at the Indiana Memorial Union on February 9. “Where else can you see someone getting painted in chocolate live?” Shelton asks.
For event details, visit lifedesignsinc.org.