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Dozen: Norton and Sandfort serve up tacos for good causes

Walking through Sarisand Tile in Charlottesville, it’s hard to imagine the massive showroom filled with anything but floor-to-ceiling tile and intricate displays. However, four times a year, the space not only fills with 200-plus people, but with every permutation of taco imaginable.

The tenants of the building, Bill Norton, owner of Rockpile Construction, and Pete Sandfort, owner of Sarisand Tile, wear many hats and have many responsibilities, but among their most enjoyable is running a quarterly Tacos on Tuesday fundraising event.

As the name suggests, the event occurs on Tuesdays and involves tacos, but in addition to eating a great meal, attendees are helping to raise money for local charities.

Norton said the event started around three years ago as a way to raise funds for the Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity. The organization was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Norton, having worked as the building committee chairman for the first three houses the group built, wanted to throw them a fundraiser.

He approached Sandfort with the idea, and the two decided to hold the event in the Sarisand Tile building. After undertaking the arduous task of moving all of the tile and smoking a lot of meat, the two men were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the event ran.

“This was just going to be a one-time thing, but our first fundraiser went so well — we raised somewhere around $1,200 — and so we decided to formalize it and do four events a year,” Norton said.

For a suggested donation of $20 to $25, attendees get to choose from a swath of taco ingredients and fillings, including smoked brisket, blackened haddock, tequila chorizo, carnitas and more.

In subsequent years, Tacos on Tuesday refined its scope and efforts all while keeping the event in the same space. While rearranging the tile is a lot of work, both Sandfort and Norton prefer to keep the event where it is, ensuring that all the money that comes in goes straight to the charities.

Furthering the amount of money the charities get, all the food, drinks and miscellaneous items are provided by Norton and Sandfort — all the organizations have to do is advertise the event and get people to it, the men said.

Keeping the events’ beneficiaries local is paramount to the event, they agree.

“We look for local charities that are smaller and wouldn’t necessarily have the reach for larger events, where the event makes more of an impact and isn’t just extra money,” Sandfort said. “To a lot of these charities, $8,000 means a lot.”

One of the charitable organizations Tacos on Tuesdays has supported is the McIntire Botanical Garden.

The organization, formed in 2008, wants to build on 8.5 acres near the intersection of Melbourne Road and the John W. Warner Parkway. It is currently seeking donations to fund its $600,000 second design phase.

Sandy Wilcox, a former board member and continuing supporter of the botanical garden, said Norton and Sandfort’s impact on the larger Charlottesville community is significant.

“One of the distinguishing features of the Charlottesville community is the extent to which nonprofit organizations contribute to the richness of living in this area,” Wilcox wrote in an email. “The organizations which have been the beneficiaries of Bill and Pete’s Taco Tuesday events cover a widely diverse spectrum of interests and add a great deal to the cultural and social justice fabric which makes Charlottesville the unique and desirable place it is.”

The next Tacos on Tuesday will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. April 21 and will benefit the Four County Players.


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