Despite uncooperative weather that forced a last-minute venue change, the "Evening Under the Stars" benefit for Wallowa schools saw a solid turnout, serving approximately 200 diners and generating more than $13,000.
Dozens of volunteers mobilized to help transition the event from the Tamkaliks grounds to the Beth Johnson room of Wallowa Elementary School Saturday, Aug. 28. They transformed the space for the dinner by hanging lights, paper lanterns, earth-toned tablecloths and strings of autumn leaves as well as setting out scores of auction items.
"We had mixed feelings about moving it at the last minute, and it's somewhat of a miracle that we got it done. But in the end I think everyone agreed it was the right decision," said John Campbell, Friends of Wallowa Schools Foundation chairman.
"It's a big event to put together-it takes a lot of support. But it's amazing how many people come forward to make it happen."
More than 70 local businesses and families donated items for the silent and live auctions, which included items as disparate as handmade jewelry, a rafting trip, 10 yards of rock and a pair of donkeys. Some of the more hotly contested items included artwork, pottery, a weeklong stay in Lincoln City and $200 off on a weed spray job. Auction balloons, which had to be popped to discover which item you'd won, were very popular, going rapidly at $10 to $20 apiece.
Early in the evening, people surveyed an array of silent auction items while high school Honor Society members served hors d' oeuvres and local musicians took the stage. Performers included the Lindsey family, Wallowa's Select Choir, Helene Hipple and Marilyn Soares. With the regular auctioneer unavailable due to a wedding, Campbell stepped up to the block and rallied people to keep the action going and the funds flowing.
The pork loin dinner was served buffet-style, and came with fruit and green salads, new potatoes, beverages, assorted breads, and an impressive assortment of desserts furnished by the Parent-Teacher Organization. Sponsoring the meal were the alumni families of Grover and Zora Johnson, Norman and Carol Barton, Kenneth and Irene Barklow, Perry and Donna Mae Johnson, the Lathrop-Jones and Gene Hayes. It was coordinated by Christine Schwannenberg and the pork was prepared by Tom and Shelley Bernhardt.
The evening's program included several pages of acknowledgments and thank-yous to more than 100 donors, sponsors, and volunteers from throughout the area. Event coordinators emphasized that they didn't list everyone who helped.
"It is always inspiring to see people come together to support our children,"said Chris Geyer, the founder of FWSF and the dinner/auction, who has since handed off event leadership to John Campbell, Heidi Wilson and Marilyn Hulse. "It's a community effort of many, many volunteers that makes this happen."
Proceeds from the event will be used on many school programs, including funding a part-time elementary physical education position this year and aiming to restart agricultural education classes in 2011. The dinner and auction netted more than $10,000, with individual donations topping $3,000 and still rolling in.