Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Holiday Season Means Busy Time for Area Fundraisers

The holiday season is approaching and soon the calendar will be filling up with parties and events to celebrate the season. But in Sandpoint the holidays mean much more than office parties.

It is a time when the community comes together to answer the appeal of several area nonprofit groups who desperately need financial help – whether it is to help the homeless through a cold and snowy winter, keep the shelves stocked at the local food banks, or assist the group home for abused and neglected children fund its ever increasing needs.

One of the holiday events, Holly Eve, is a favorite among residents. Its founder, Marilyn Sabella, first hosted Holly Eve 29 years ago – when she raised $1,500 – and hasn’t missed a year since. Over the years, countless nonprofit organizations have benefited from the Holly Eve Foundation. Sabella says last year was a milestone for the event.

“We broke the million dollar mark last year,” said Sabella, who attributes the success of the event to the extreme generosity of the people of Sandpoint. “I do not think this event could happen in very many communities. But in Sandpoint so many individuals and businesses come together to make it work.”

Due to its popularity, the event outgrew its previous venue and will be held at the Sandpoint Events Center for the second year. Proceeds will be donated to the Festival at Sandpoint, the Panida Theater, Pend Oreille Arts Council, Community Cancer Services and Bonner Community Hospice.

Sabella said the board of directors for Holly Eve Foundation typically funds programs that have difficulty obtaining funding from other sources.

“All of our board members have had personal experience with these organizations,” said Sabella.

This year’s event will take place on Nov. 21 and tickets are $25. There will be food from 18 area restaurants, champagne, live and silent auctions as well as entertainment and a fashion show. Tickets go on sale Monday and are available at Eve’s Leaves, the Festival at Sandpoint office and the downtown branch of Panhandle State Bank.

Another popular seasonal event is Kinderhaven’s Festival of Trees. Kinderhaven, a privately funded group home for abused and neglected children, held its first Festival in 2000. The staff and board of directors were thrilled when they raised just over $6,000. As the community learned more about the mission of Kinderhaven, the event rapidly grew in popularity and now typically makes around $150,000.

“We have made a name for ourselves in the community,” said board member Jacinda Bokowy. “It is too bad that a place like Kinderhaven has to exist, but that is the reality. There are children who are not safe in their own homes.”

Kinderhaven’s annual budget varies between $216,000 to $240,000, depending upon the number of children living in the home. During the past year Kinderhaven cared for an average of eight children each month.

According to Phyllis Horvath, Kinderhaven’s executive director, one of the biggest expenses is liability and worker’s compensation insurance which runs around $18,000.

“That’s a significant cost that most people probably wouldn’t intuitively think about,” said Horvath.

But organizers of this year’s event said that despite a struggling economy, the support of the community remains.

“Even in these hard economic times for a lot of our local businesses, it’s amazing to me that all they have to hear is, ‘I’m working on an auction package for Kinderhaven’ and they ask ‘what can I do?’ ” said Bokowy. “It just proves that we’re doing something right at Kinderhaven. This community really comes together when the children need us.”

The festival begins on Dec 3 with a free family night from 4 to 7 p.m. when the community is invited to view the decorated trees, wreaths and gift baskets. On Friday, Dec 4 there will be a holiday luncheon. Dec. 5 will be the progressive gala which will feature two events in one – a silent auction with hors d’oeuvres and a no-host bar followed by dinner and the live auction of decorated trees. More information on how to get tickets to this event can be found at www.kinderhavensandpoint.com.

These are two of many fundraisers this community puts on during the next few months, and each year the same sentiment is echoed through this town: people are amazed at how much money can be raised in a town of just 8,000 people. But Sabella says these fundraisers are successful not due to a few people but because of many.

“People give what they can and when you put it all together it makes a big impact,” said Sabella

It is that spirit of giving that has earned Sandpoint the reputation of being more than a small town – it is the very definition of a community.

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