Wreath Auction at Lighting of the Vines Is Expression of a Productive Partnership Between Wolffer and Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center - 27 East

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Wreath Auction at Lighting of the Vines Is Expression of a Productive Partnership Between Wolffer and Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center

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Joey Wolffer, the co-owner of Wolffer Estate Vineyards, has become a dedicated supporter of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. COURTESY WOLFFER ESTATE VINEYARDS

Joey Wolffer, the co-owner of Wolffer Estate Vineyards, has become a dedicated supporter of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. COURTESY WOLFFER ESTATE VINEYARDS

Joey Wolffer, the co-owner of Wolffer Estate Vineyards, has become a dedicated supporter of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. COURTESY WOLFFER ESTATE VINEYARDS

Joey Wolffer, the co-owner of Wolffer Estate Vineyards, has become a dedicated supporter of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. COURTESY WOLFFER ESTATE VINEYARDS

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

Wolffer Estate's annual charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines is a fundraiser for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. The wreaths, made by several local artisans and florists, are sold during a silent auction and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Center. MARK KOPKO

authorCailin Riley on Nov 17, 2022

The Lighting of the Vines at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack has become a well-known holiday tradition on the East End for well over a dozen years now. Guests buy tickets for a fun holiday evening at the picturesque vineyard, eating locally sourced hors d’oeuvres, sipping Wölffer Estate wine and getting in the holiday spirit as they watch an ornate display of lights strung along the rows at the 175-acre vineyard create a magical scene.

One of the standout features of the evening — which is set for Friday, December 2, this year — has been the silent auction of several hand-crafted holiday wreaths designed by local artisans and florists. Proceeds from the sale of the wreaths benefit the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center, a historically Black, community-based organization that serves all marginalized East End children and their families while seeking to encourage, educate and empower those children and their families.

Wölffer and the center are practically neighbors, separated by just 2.22 miles, although in many ways they are worlds apart. But thanks to the collaboration between the women who are the face of both entities, that gap has been bridged in recent years and has resulted in a special community partnership.

Joey Wölffer is the eponymous co-owner (along with her brother, Marc) of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, the business her father, Christian Wölffer, started in 1988. He died in 2009.

She said the holiday season and the Lighting of the Vines event has a special place in her heart.

“This will be our 13th anniversary of the Lighting of the Vines,” she said. “The holidays are a very special time of year for us; it always was to my father and our family.”

The business has expanded over the years, under Joey Wölffer’s watch and guidance, to become one of the most recognizable wine brands in the region and even the country. Wölffer has a high profile nationally thanks not only to her acumen as a businesswoman — she also owns a successful clothing and accessories business, with a storefront in Sag Harbor — but also for her work as a philanthropist, her political activism, and the example she sets as a successful businesswoman all while raising two young girls with her husband, Wölffer Estate CEO Max Rohn.

Wölffer is also a competitive equestrian who competes across the country at top-rated show jumping events. She was the subject of a New York Times feature story over the summer, about the success of the vineyard and its popular rosé wine in particular.

Wölffer met Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center Executive Director Bonnie Cannon through a friend several years ago. Despite growing up in the area, Wölffer said that before meeting Cannon, she was not aware that the center existed.

“Once I learned about it, I was swept away by their work,” she said.

Wölffer became determined to use her influence, networks and other resources to support the center, and a strong community partnership was born, bolstered by what emerged as a mutual admiration between the two women.

Wölffer’s first impression of Cannon and what the center does for the community has only strengthened over the years.

“She’s charismatic and dedicated to these kids,” Wölffer said of Cannon. “Her passion is what’s driving the center forward.”

For her part, Cannon said she’s been thrilled to have Wölffer’s support, and holds her and the rest of the Wölffer Estate organization up as models for what charitable giving should look like.

“They get it,” she said. “They get why we’re important and valuable to the community. They know what we do and why it’s important.”

Cannon describes Wölffer as “humble,” saying she doesn’t seek attention or expect outsized admiration for her support. While many philanthropists and donors will often simply write a check, Wölffer is actively engaged and involved in what the center does and in bringing others into the fold, making her not only a key supporter but a valuable ambassador. Whether it’s showing up at a car wash, hiring center alumni, or hosting a fundraiser at her home and introducing influential friends to the work the center does, Wölffer is dedicated in an uncommon and valuable way, Cannon said.

“She sets a great example,” she said. “And it really sets the tone. We’re a nonprofit that deals with marginalized families, so we’re not in the circles that she’s in. She utilizes her successes and can touch base with high profile people, and she uses her own companies to support the center.”

Wölffer explained why she has been motivated to put her energy behind the center over the last few years.

“While there are many issues in the world today, to be able to turn our attention to our own communities where there are people struggling and need our support is very important to me,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and now with my own family; these kids and young adults are the future of this community. To be able to support them through projects like their college prep and after-school program that the center is providing is critical for all of us.”

One of the most fruitful collaborations between Wölffer Estate and the center has been the charity wreath auction at the Lighting of the Vines. The wreaths, created by designers and artisans like Sag Harbor Florist, Thayer’s Hardware, Ovando, Bridgehampton Florist, Roses & Rice, Topiaire, Lilee Fell Flowers, April Gornik, Kimberly Goff, The Baker House and more. The center also makes and auctions off its own wreath, designed by the children at the center. The auction includes 30 wreaths that go for between $200 and $600, benefiting the center, and 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales also go to the center. The center is given the opportunity to sell several VIP tables for the event and also creates a program for the Lighting of the Vines and sells ads for it, which brings in additional money.

Cannon said she appreciates that there isn’t a heavy lift for her and the center when it comes to being part of this fundraiser — and it’s also simply a good time.

“It’s an easy event,” she said. “We make a wreath and just show up.”

“It’s a great event,” she added. “It’s open to the community. I love the hot apple cider. It puts you in the Christmas spirit, especially when they turn on the lights on the vines.”

For Wölffer, seeing the center pull in the kind of financial contributions it needs to keep thriving through the wreath auction and Lighting of the Vines event is a rewarding experience, but another goal is making sure the event has an even more wide-reaching impact.

“I hope people not only get to hear about the great programs and what the center does for the community, but the success stories of the kids that have been or are currently with the center,” Wölffer said. “It’s unbelievable to hear what they are doing today and how the center has impacted their lives.”

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