Paper Doll and United Way just held the most creative fundraiser ever

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Paper Doll’s Kevin Cook and Reece Hovater. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Let me tell you a story about two drinks that played a role in one of the most creative fundraisers ever devised in the Magic City supporting our local United Way.

One is called “Boost”—a leading nutrition drink supplement that is essential for countless homebound seniors.

The other drink? Basil Smash—the signature cocktail at Paper Doll, the popular and hip bar in downtown Birmingham.

Got you interested? Here is the story. 

United Way YPS

Entrance at Paper Doll. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Kevin Cook, the co-owner of Paper Doll, serves as co-chair of the United Way of Central Alabama’s Young Philanthropists Society (YPS), a dynamic group of young professionals who give annually to the United Way at the leadership level—$1000 or more.

Cook told us that before the pandemic, in a normal year, the group held several in-person service-type events with United Way partner agencies. They also held panel discussions at these meetups, along with some community networking. 

When the pandemic hit, everything was put on hold.

Using Zoom

Like everyone else in the world, in lieu of large gatherings, the YPS held Zoom meetings to keep donors engaged. They were successful events, networking and information gathering-wise, but it was hard to do any kind of a service event through a laptop.

So, how do you do a service project supporting a United Way agency via Zoom and have fun at the same time?

That’s where the two drinks come in. 

A cocktail class that supports Meals on Wheels

Here’s how the fundraiser worked:

  • First, YPS members collected the nutritional supplements and dropped them off at a collection site for United Way’s Meals on Wheels program in Jefferson County. They were then given a cocktail kit.
  • Second, cocktail kit in hand, YPS members were invited to attend a 30-minute ZOOM cocktail class taught by Paper Doll’s Reese Hovater. Attendees not only learned how to make a Basil Smash, but they were also provided the history of the cocktail and had the chance to engage in a Q&A session about creating cocktails at home. 

Below are the ingredients for a Basil Smash:

Screenshot of the ingredients in a Basil Smash

In total, about 50 members participated in the event, and 40 people showed up for the virtual cocktail class. All will be recurring donors to United Way at the YPS leadership level of $1000+ a year.

“As a business owner, Paper Doll wanted to be able to support United Way, so we did as much as we could to support them,” said Cook. “This year is hard, when you think of all the things that have gone on. Working from home. The stress of a pandemic. Kids not being in school. At the end of the day, I kind of realized how many safety nets I personally had. 

United Way is a safety net for the Birmingham Community.”

2 Weeks of Boost and Ensure

Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

According to Becky Wright, Director of Meals on Wheels of Central Alabama, the generous support from the YPS fundraiser will allow Meals on Wheels to supply 15 homebound seniors a two-week supply of liquid nutritional supplements like Boost and Ensure. 

“Support and partnerships from groups like YPS help Meals on Wheels offer critically-needed services and nourishment to clients that we otherwise might not be able to provide,” said Wright. “So many of our homebound seniors rely on Meals on Wheels as their main source of nutrition. Simply put, where others in the community have family or friends who can step in when they’re in need, we are the sole safety net for a large percentage of our seniors.”

How to Join YPS

Want to become a United Way Young Philanthropist? It’s easy!

Some ways to join and take part in their mission include:

  • A leadership gift through your company’s workplace campaign for United Way
  • Reach out to UW directly to make a monthly pledge (monthly donations or a one-time gift). Info below!

Join today! The benefits to our community are immeasurable. Bonus: you might learn how to make a Basil Smash cocktail. 

Sponsored by:


  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.