Forget about Tea for Two. Ida Albo is hoping to pour tea for 1,500 this fall.
Albo, the co-owner of the Fort Garry Hotel, is chairwoman of the Guardian Angels committee, a group that raises funds for the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. This year, she and her committee decided, with good reason, well-heeled Winnipeggers are tired of attending expensive fundraising dinners.
"It's always the same kind of event and people don't want to stay out late on a work night and see the same people," says Albo.
Committee member Sandra Lorange came up with the idea for the high tea party.
"Drinking tea with other women has been a bond for centuries," says Lorange. "They sit and chat and get to know one another."
In order to have a tea party with 1,500 participants, the Guardian Angels need 1,500 teacups. They're asking Manitobans to drop off their gently loved cups and saucers at Safeway stores. Pink polka-dot boxes have been set out to receive the donations.
They'd also like donors to write a note, explaining the significance of the cups.
"Maybe they belonged to their grandmothers, or they were a wedding present," says Lorange. "When the committee got talking it seemed like everyone had teacups stored in the basements."
The tea party will be held Sunday, Oct. 27, at the convention centre. Tickets are $150 each or $2,000 for a table. Albo, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor, says they hope to raise $400,0000 for women's cancer programs in Manitoba.
Some of the money will come from what Albo promises will be "the biggest rainbow auction Manitoba has seen" and some from the sale of $50 "mystery bags." Committee members are soliciting donations.
The event will still feature a fashion show with cancer survivors acting as models. Actress and cancer-awareness advocate Fran Drescher is the guest speaker.
Just what the committee will do with 1,500 teacups after the fundraiser remains to be determined. Lorange says they'd like to share the personal stories in some way, perhaps on a screen at the event. There's talk of sending attendees home with the cups on their table.
"It really depends," says Albo. "We might get inundated with cups. We might not get enough."
The committee has started collecting tea stories from volunteers. Here's one from Elena Zinchenko:
"Russians cannot live without tea. And today, just like in the past, Russian families will get together and sit down at a table not to have lunch or dinner but to have tea. Even coffee that has been slowly but surely making its way onto Russian tables has still not been able to replace tea. Russians will drink tea on any occasion and with no occasion whatsoever.
"Drinking tea is not a matter of quenching one's thirst but rather is a kind of social ceremony. We sort out family issues, strike business deals and arrange marriages over tea ceremonies. With Russians, it seemed like no serious issue could be resolved without a cup of tea. Conversations over tea became an integral part of the history of Russian culture.
"If you want to have tea the Russian way, you need at least 30 minutes to spare. You cannot just down a cup of tea and dash off. And you can't remain silent while you are having your tea. Growing up, I was travelling a lot with my family and we took trains everywhere. The first thing you get on the train in your little cabin (usually shared with strangers or other passengers) is a cup of tea! A few minutes later you would know everyone's names, their family stories, and out of nowhere all kinds of homemade food would appear on the little table."
Albo and her team would like to see your teacups at Safeway and read your stories. Then they'd like to see you at the massive tea party.
If a marriage gets arranged at your table, mazel tov!