CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Amid grim daily news and political battling, a lighthearted break will occur in Charleston at 6 p.m. Oct. 16. The yearly Jim Dent Dinner, an evening of comedy, will be held at Embassy Suites to raise funds for the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center.
The center, based at First Presbyterian Church with outlying branches, gives psychological care to more than 1,000 individuals, couples and families each year -- over half of them lacking health insurance and needing subsidized aid.
The annual dinner is named for the Gazette's late humor columnist, who had a wide following in West Virginia. After Dent died 20 years ago, friends created the whimsical event in his memory to aid the people-helping center. It quickly became the chief funding source for the organization of minister-counselors. Organizers choose "clean" stand-up comics, not obscene nightclub performers.
This year's humorist speaker is Ralph Hood, who also spoke in 2003. His biography says:
"Ralph grew up among the marshes and beaches of coastal Georgia before becoming a commercial pilot and aircraft salesman/sales manager in Alabama. Along the way, he graduated from Clemson University, where he wrote for The Clemson Tiger newspaper, and where, he says, 'Through grit, determination and superior intelligence, I was able to cram four years of college into only five years.'"
Today, Hood travels constantly to speaking engagements, and also writes columns and books, which he says "are widely read by my wife." One of his books is "The Truth & Other Lies." Another is "Ground Clutter." He compares flying an airplane to life itself. When he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, she told him, "Ralph Hood, you are a funny man."
Individual tickets are $75 each, half of which is tax-deductible. Businesses, agencies and churches often reserve tables or make larger gifts. Information can be obtained by phone at 304-346-9689 or through the center's website: www.kpcc.com/the-dent-dinner.