The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 15, 2020 1:00 am

City brewery tour benefits CTN

5th annual Hop On raises about $22,000 for local nonprofit

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Dave Fisher was in it for the beer.

Supporting a local nonprofit, too? That's just foam on top of the lager.

The Fort Wayne man sat among five friends Saturday at a corner table inside Mad Anthony Brewing Co. They had arrived on a CTN bus as part of the fifth annual Hop On Brew Tour, a fundraiser for Community Transportation Network.

CTN provides specialized medical transportation to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. The organization, which employs 32, operates 32 transit vans and school buses.

For a $50 donation, brew tour participants were given rides to six local breweries, where they could enjoy food and drinks while socializing.

“It's a ridiculously easy way to help,” Fisher said. “I almost feel guilty.”

CTN's first Hop On Brew Tour raised a little more than $5,000. Steady increases resulted in more than $15,000 last year and led organizers to set a $25,000 goal for 2020, said Justin Clupper, the nonprofit's executive director. The final tally was about $22,000, thanks to sponsors' donations.

This year's event, which was limited to 140 people, sold out. Organizers required participants to wear face masks except when sitting at brewery tables. Staff sanitized buses between trips and offered hand sanitizer.

Staff took participants' temperatures when they arrived for the fundraiser and asked them to complete a health questionnaire.

Clupper also asked breweries not to sit more than six people at a table. Participants were strongly encouraged to spend the afternoon with one consistent group and not move among tables.

Laura Vachon, who was there with her husband, Lucas, said she believed the organizers took appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Fisher agreed.

“I'm glad they didn't cancel it,” he added.

The event has become an important element of the 20-year-old organization's $2.1 million annual operating budget, Clupper said. Last year, CTN provided more than 103,000 trips – including about 26,000 specialized medical trips – for almost 9,000 people. About 60% of those trips were low-cost, large group charter trips for other nonprofit agencies. 

“COVID-19 has presented plenty of challenges for CTN and our riders,” he said in an email. “The dollars raised from Hop On are needed now more than ever as our costs have increased and rider fees have decreased due to social distancing. Our medical trips don't have more than three on a vehicle at one time.”

In years past, CTN required a donation from each participating brewery, providing an income stream in addition to ticket sales. This year, considering how many restaurants are struggling financially, the nonprofit declined to accept donations from the establishments, Clupper said.

The participants' perks were also beefed up this year. In addition to the annual T-shirt, they each received a face mask with a filter, a lanyard and a drink koozie. 

Fisher, for one, loves the T-shirts, citing their design as eye-catching. So much so that a passing bicyclist called out a greeting and compliment last week when Fisher was walking downtown while wearing a prior year's design.

“He said, 'Hop On Brew Tour. I love that!'”

The Vachons are four-time participants.

“I think it's a really good fundraiser,” Laura Vachon said. “We just know the cause and think it's a wonderful cause. You never know when you're going to need it.”

Fisher had no doubt the pub crawl concept – so popular in other cities – would be a hit here.

“When (organizers) started it, they said, 'We don't know if this will work as a fundraiser.' And I said, 'Oh, yeah, it will,'” he said, flashing two thumbs up.

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