Culinary Throw Down Benefits Opportunity House

picture of Jen Dinatally and her throwdown partner Dustin Shank

Jen Dinatally and Dustin Shank

On Nov 7th, The Beer Wall in West Reading hosted the Throwdown on the Avenue to benefit Opportunity House. Once again, the competition was fierce. Jen Dinatally, a local realtor and owner of United Real Estate Strive 212 and Darren Kostival, a relator at Re/Max of Reading, faced off against, their rival team of Dustin Shank, Fidelis Mortgage Corporation and Dan Weidenhammer. Jen and Dustin have hosted this spirited culinary challenge since 2022 and proceeds benefit Opportunity House—a homeless shelter in Berks County that serves over 500 people each year.

This year, bragging rights for the second year in a row went to the team of Jen Dinatally and Darren Kostival, the winners of this fun-filled event. Their winning fall themed menu included: pumpkin soup, braised beef with polenta and pumpkin cupcake.

Jen and Dustin support the mission of Opportunity House at this sold-out event each year. Business associates, friends and family all bought tickets for this friendly rivalry and delicious food but the heart of the competition is raising funds for Opportunity House.

Each year over 500 men, women, children, Veterans, single moms, and families will experience homelessness. They have nowhere else to turn. The reason for their homelessness is as diverse as the population we serve. Skyrocketing rents, fractured relationships, health issues, and loss of a job often have catastrophic results for those who are living paycheck to paycheck. Jen Dinatally and Dustin Shank share below their thoughts on why Opportunity House is important to them and the role Opportunity House plays in Berks County.

Jen Dinatally

Why do you choose to support Opportunity House? 

I didn’t realize all the services that Opportunity House has to offer in addition to being a homeless shelter that provides meals. They offer childcare, job training and recycling programs, and OppShop to name a few.

Why is Opportunity House  vital to our community?

There are very few places for the underserved people in the community and Opportunity House not only provides food and shelter but also services to help people get employed and provides affordable childcare, among other things.

Why do you encourage others to support the work of Opportunity House?

I have met many people at the shelter that “never thought they would end up here”. Not everyone who is down on their luck created that situation. People lose their jobs and because of that, their homes and whole families are then left without shelter. You never know if or when that could be your story.

Tell us something about Dustin Shank, your partner in the Throwdown?

Dustin is actually a giant teddy bear and happens to be a decent cook.

Dustin Shank

Why choose Opportunity House? 

We take for granted every day being able to open the refrigerator for food or get in our cars to get something to eat. We also have a home and a place to feel safe. Opportunity House is helping those that don’t necessarily have that same opportunity at the moment.

Why do you think Opportunity House is vital to our community?

I honestly knew very little about Opportunity House. I didn’t realize the massive undertaking it is to feed and help those in need and what goes into that every single day.

Why do you encourage others to support the work of Opportunity House?

I think any time you can help and show compassion to those who need it most, living in your own community allows those people to know that someone has their back and promotes their own self-worth and hopefully allows them to pass the same onto others.

Opportunity House is here in our community, in our backyard helping those who need it. Time and effort to help is a small task for many of us who never have to experience the needs that Opportunity House provides.

Tell us something about Jennifer Dinitally, your partner in the Throwdown?

My partner Jen is one of the most genuine, transparent people I know. She lives life working hard, playing hard, but still finds time to truly help others. When I think about Jen, I often hear the song in my head, “Wind Beneath My Wings”, especially the very first line.


A Fighting Spirit to Overcome Homelessness-Opportunity House

“My mom taught me how to keep fighting and not to give up. My dad taught me to dream.” Those traits are part of her DNA that has helped her survive abuse, homelessness, and despair. Today, as Tara* is rebuilding her life, her internal motivation drives her while her Zen-like calmness gives her peace through […]