CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mark your calendar. The 20th annual Jim Dent Dinner -- named for The Charleston Gazette's late humor columnist -- is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Clay Center.
The dinner is the chief fundraiser for the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center, a ministerial psychological service based in Charleston's First Presbyterian Church, with outlying branches.
This year's speaker is the Rev. Mark Gungor, leader of a chain of Wisconsin churches, who specializes in marriage counseling.
"Our secular culture over-romanticizes marriage, and our Christian culture over-spiritualizes it," he says. "The reality is that relationships between men and women are very down to earth." He says he strives to "help couples get it right, get along, have fun and achieve a successful marriage."
Gungor produces a "Better Marriage Moment" that is broadcast by 250 U.S. radio stations -- and his Mark Gungo Show is streamed worldwide on the Internet. In addition to appearances as a humor speaker, he also conducts "Better Marriage Seminars" for groups.
Dent was the Gazette's political cartoonist and witty columnist for decades, developing a wide West Virginia following. He was a mainstay of the yearly "Third House" show that spoofs the Legislature and state leaders. After his death in 1992, friends hatched a yearly fundraising dinner in his name, featuring "clean" comedians, not obscene nightclub performers.
Ministers of the Pastoral Center counsel more than 1,000 clients per year, many of them low-income families. The service would be impaired without $60,000 or more usually raised by the Dent Dinner. Last year's event was sold out.Tickets are $88 (or $40 without food). Sales begin Wednesday. Purchases can be made online at www.dentdinner.org. Several businesses and church congregations reserve whole tables.