RICK GRAEFE / JOURNAL From left to right are: Charlie Medelberg, Amy Berg, Tony Moise and Sam Hamacher.

Rick Graefe

This fall, local oenophiles will be offering up rarities from their personal cellars for a good cause as Epworth Children & Family Services hosts its Wine Dinner and Auction on Nov. 10 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis.

The black-tie event is projected to be the largest-ever fundraiser for Epworth, which works to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect. “A lot of local wine enthusiasts are excited about the opportunity to showcase wines from their own cellars,” says Julie Reed, Epworth’s chief development officer. “We want this to be the signature wine event of the region.”

The fundraiser, which began as a booster for Family Support Network—a child abuse prevention organization that recently merged with Epworth—drew 160 attendees and raised $100,000 last year. Organizers hope to more than double those numbers this year.

At the dinner, each table will have a designated captain who will bring wine from his or her own collection for the group. Epworth board member Tony Moise notes the event creates a fun environment for wine fans. “It’s a unique opportunity for people who enjoy fine wines to taste something new, and also to help a good cause,” he says, adding that to further wet guests’ appetites, rare wines will be up for auction during the event.

The fundraiser will support Epworth’s wide range of child and family programs. The organization, which has a 150-year history of treating children and families suffering from abuse and neglect, recently added preventive services through its merger with Family Support Network. The partnership allows Epworth to help even more families, Reed notes. The nonprofit has grown by 50 percent since 2009 and helps 5,000 kids per year. “A good indication of the health of the whole community is the ability to take care of our most vulnerable citizens—our children,” she says.

At Epworth, children ages 11 to 18 who are experiencing an emotional, mental or behavioral crisis stay in a 24- hour supervised environment that includes therapy, recreational opportunities, medical care and spiritual support. Other programs are foster care, family therapy, educational courses, street outreach and the new family support network, which includes in-home family counseling, parenting education and community resource referrals.

The organization’s proactive approach “really changes lives,” Moise says. “We essentially try to break that cycle of abuse, which for many children, has been modeled for them by their parents. The parents learn how to communicate, handle stressful situations and use positive discipline techniques.” Reed adds that the organization is always looking for new ways to prevent abuse in at-risk families. “We connect them to resources to alleviate the pressure they are under— because sometimes, that pressure on families is taken out on kids, and we want to keep families healthy.”