School galas help offset tuition costs for families

Davenport’s All Saints Catholic School parents and supporters enjoy a “Sock Hop” fundraiser earlier this year — prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Fundraisers at Catholic schools are often held throughout the year to help keep tuition costs down for families. Many schools have at least one large event, typically for adults only, to support the Catholic schools’ mission. This year, the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on some of the fundraisers.
One of the lucky ones, All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, held its gala Feb. 29, just before the coronavirus developed into a pandemic, said Principal Jeanne Von Feldt. “It is our biggest fundraiser and is always the last Saturday of February.” Support comes from throughout the community, in addition to All Saints parents, she said. “We are so very grateful for that.”
The adults-only gala featured dinner and a live and silent auction. “We earned $119,000 this year and it was our largest amount brought in for the school for our budget. Of course we had to pay our bills for the food, drinks, venue, etc.” Most of the profits go to the general fund and some for special projects for students, such as new student desks, chairs or Chromebooks.
Von Feldt is proud of her staff as all attended the gala. “They work during the evening on various things that need to be done such as helping with the auctions, check out, etc. Our parents and community members have commented on this and are very impressed when they see the staff and are able to thank them for the great work they do at All Saints to help their students.”
She has begun to think about what to do if an in-person event could not be held next year. “We really need the money obtained from this gala, but I also love how our All Saints community comes together to help this wonderful school, which I see as another great benefit!” She focuses on “the many, many ways all of our hard work and efforts come together to help the All Saints students.”
Trish Kohl of Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City identified two big fundraising events the school depends on  — the gala in February and the Iowa City Family Fun Festival in late summer. The adults-only gala includes cocktails, dinner, silent auction, live auction and a dance. The school typically earns around $130,000 a year, which goes into the general fund. The entire auction has already been held online but enhancements may be made in the future, depending on possible restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic cancelled the annual gala for John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport. Principal Chad Steimle said the adults-only event is typically held in late spring and includes a dinner, silent and live auction and dance. It usually raises $30,000 to $40,000.
Money goes toward teacher salaries and benefits, technology needs, faith formation programming (such as retreats) and special projects.
“We cancelled our spring event. In its place, we will likely do some fun, online activities that will be more fun oriented than fundraising oriented,” Steimle said. “The generosity of our supporters is always amazing, even though the challenges faced this spring. Whether it be through the weekly envelope giving, Our Lady of Victory’s capital campaign just launched in late February, or through other donations, we are humbled by the generosity of our supporters.”
Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa was able to hold its annual basket auction fundraising event. Principal James Wessling said the event typically draws mostly adults. Individuals and businesses donate auction items. This year’s event, held March 7, included a social hour, dinner and the basket auction. Income from the event typically generates in the lower to mid-$30,000 range, Wessling said. Money goes to the school’s general fund.
Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf’s adults-only spring event was postponed because of the pandemic.  The event usually includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, a live and silent auction, wine/craft beer pull and teacher wish-list items.
Principal Jennifer Alongi said students get involved in the preparation by decorating stars for the event and writing “wish” items on them. The event raises as much as $60,000 to $70,000 each year and goes toward the wish-list items, technology for teachers and students, and updates in the school.
Alongi said that if conditions allow, the event will be held June 27. The online auction is expected to be held Memorial Day weekend “thanks to our generous sponsors and school families who have donated or helped to gather donations.”  The online website has been used the past few years to advertise auction items before the event. “This year we were already set to start the online auction.”

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