Peggy Sturdivant
Bob Jacobs at Bop Street "We gave twice."

At Large in Ballard: No more no

My friend Susan Schneider is an artist who teaches at eight different locations but Ballard’s NW Senior Center is more than a teaching venue for her. It is her cause. Otherwise why would she spend almost all her non-teaching hours approaching business after business in downtown Ballard to ask for donations to the senior center’s most important annual fundraiser: the $pring for $eniors Auction on Sunday March 27th?

Susan walks everywhere these days, for exercise and to get acquainted with Ballard after recent years abroad. As one who teaches at the senior center and enjoys their programs, Susan volunteered to combine her walks with soliciting auction donations. “Nobody asked me to do this,” Susan said. “Ballard Senior Center is just such a good organization but funds to operate are tougher and tougher to get. If the center was ever lost there would be 100’s and 100’s of people without any place to go during the day. Senior centers are endangered.”

Susan first asked me if I would donate writing or coaching time. I asked to accompany her as she approached new merchants and returned to businesses, either to pick up a donation or to connect with an owner or manager. We met at the library between March downpours. Susan worked the census last year so she was attacking her mission with enumerator training; lists of addresses, notes about when to check back, business cards taped onto pages. It was March 9th, Susan’s seventh day on her “come back next week” journey to the auction catalog deadline on March 20th.

First stop was Cupcake Royale where 12 promised gift cards could not immediately be located. (Cupcake Royale has their own email address just for donations: they are very giving throughout the community). In the meantime I looked over Susan’s notes. “It’s a challenge for me,” Susan said. “I’m competitive with myself so I’ve forced myself to go into almost every business. I call it collecting the no’s.”

Cupcake Royale gift cards in hand we headed west on the north side of Market. “I’ve been into businesses I didn’t even know existed,” Susan said. “As far west as Firehouse (a no, parentheses mine) and partway down Ballard Avenue.” As we passed businesses she pointed ones that had already donated; those that had declined sometimes with true regret and others without even letting Susan spit out the words ‘senior center.’ Susan knows businesses get asked by worthy non-profits all of the time and she made me promise I wouldn’t write bad things about businesses that had declined without good grace. Other places Susan forged back in to check if the elusive owner had appeared. “I want to be told no again.”

Gift certificates from Annie’s Art and Great Harvest, ten movies from Movie Cycle, a frame from Coleman’s Jewelers, a rake from Limback’s, a necklace from Kick-It, the possibility of a quilt from the owner’s private collection at The Quilting Loft. We reached our western endpoint and worked our way east. Susan told me about her experience at Anchor Tattoo. An unseen employee simply shouted no to the start of Susan’s request. (She let me tell this one). Susan had called back, “No wonder there are so few seniors with tattoos!”
An auction flyer was taped by the door of Eidem’s Upholstery. “That’s the only place I’ve seen them post a flyer,” Susan said. “And they gave the largest gift certificate I’ve heard about so far, $200 towards re-upholstering.”

At Dandelion Botanical, owner Mary Cassinelli went through the store to select items for a gift basket, apologizing that she didn’t have an actual basket. Next door at Enlighten Susan and Bria at the counter discovered a mutual connection with Anäis Nin. Bria is a lifelong journal writer. Susan wrote to Nin and was invited to meet her personally.

I was tiring, but there was still a pick-up to be made at Coleman’s. I made Susan go into Bop Street Records because my daughter had done yard work for the owner. Beneath the stained glass images of owner Dave Voorhees and the original “Bop Girl” Bob Jacobs showed us how to evaluate vinyl and identify valuable Beatles’ albums. Jacobs donated a $25 gift certificate (“This will never expire”), then decided, “It’s for the seniors! Put down that Bop Street Records gave twice.” And he did.

Carlye Teal, Director at Ballard Senior Center Director emphasizes that the spring dinner auction is their biggest fundraiser of the year, “If it’s not a success it puts our whole year in jeopardy.” But she likes to emphasize the auction is, “Fun, fun, fun. Not stodgy. We have a wine toss, heads and toes game, treasure chest, dessert dash. It’s just a great night.”

Susan took pity and bought me a salted caramel dark chocolate cupcake. She was fretting over whether anyone would follow-up with restaurants that had been contacted by mail. “It’s only a week out of my life,” Susan said, “but it is tiring.” I pointed out that she was talking a month, not a week. Once I’d had some frosting I suggested Ballard Landmark. (They subsequently renewed their sponsorship and crafted a gift certificate opportunity for a private party movie night).

Next week Susan will hit the streets of Ballard as part of her determination to make the auction a success so that Ballard senior center can dish up meals, host multi-generation activities, provide computers, driving classes, art, sewing, Bingo nights and dances. Say yes to her. I did.

For more information visit
Call 206.297.0403 to donate items, volunteer, purchase tickets or get more information. Event starts at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 27, Leif Erikson Hall, 2245 NW 57th Street

(Click photo to start slideshow)

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