At Large in Ballard: Spring, sprang, sprung
Local attorney Henry Grenley buys a couple of cases of decent wine, adds some very expensive wines and raises money at the annual dinner and auction fundraiser for Ballard NW Senior Center by running a “wine toss.”
Magnolia resident Bernie Sadowski always buys an entire table so that he can invite new guests, but that’s just a fraction of his auction contributions. He is on the planning committee, solicits donations and spent so much at his first auction that his daughter said, “Daddy, are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Lynne and Mike Bush always donate a round of golf at Broadmoor for the auction, attend and bid generously. Lynne Bush became involved through her late friend Diana Hovland, a former sorority sister who was a Senior Services Coordinator. Her late friend’s husband Al Hovland has now been chair for so long they’ve stopped pretending there is any other auction chair.
None of the above even live in Ballard.
Yet they all support the “Spring for Seniors” fundraising event every year along with a crew of committee members, staff and volunteers.
“Putting on an auction is a huge amount of work,” Grenley told me. “It ages you.” His participation was grandfathered through a former partner at his Ballard law firm. His reason for serving on the Board and being involved for decades has everything to do with NW Senior Center’s Director Carlye Teel. “I would hate to have her job,” he said. “Constant money issues. It’s a horrible job but she loves it, and she’s wonderful at it.”
Everyone on the Board and the auction committee know this fundraiser is “Make or break” in order to physically keep the doors open at the Senior Center open and its programs funded. With budget cuts the NW Senior Center is now responsible for all of its own maintenance, in addition to utilities and other operating costs. Community support funds at least two-thirds of the NW Senior Center; with the auction their largest fundraiser of the year.
That alleged aging doesn’t show on longtime auction chair Al Hovland at the weekly Thursday about five weeks before the date of the actual event. His committee is trying to work all the angles, contacting businesses for sponsorship, community members to purchase tables, merchants to donate gift certificates, volunteers to work the dinner. His ‘why’ is simple. “We do this,” he said looking around the corral of tables, “Because the local community needs to support the Senior Center.”
“The money raised doesn’t go downtown,” he said. “It stays right here and pays for the lights, the heat, the programming. We have people who are living on close to $500 a month. The lunchtime program is the only balanced meal of the day for some of the people. These people aren’t strangers. Many of them have lived in the area for all of their lives.”
Hovland sees the direct connection between planning the event menu, having his daughter bartend, printing a program of live and silent auction items and what the night’s success can provide for the rest of the year, which is sometimes a lifeline.
Bernie Sadowski pretty much does credit the NW Senior Center with saving his life after he was widowed. Now it is a huge part of his life, including his love life, after later meeting a lady there. He started attending BINGO and participating in “everything.” He recalls that Carlye Teel said, “You’ve gotten so active.” In no time he was on the Board, purchasing the Holland America cruise at the auction and rounding up new people for his auction table.
Ticket sales, centerpieces, food orders, servers, gift baskets, paper color for this year’s program, runners, cashiers, paddles for bidders…in the final weeks before the auction planners can only control so much. They still need big ticket items for the live auction and a full house. They would love to sell 175 tickets and pack the upstairs at Leif Erickson. They could still use more donated vacation houses and gift baskets even though the donation list is almost ten pages long. Everyone from Pam Barber at Swedish to Sue Markley from America West is working to encourage their organizations and others to contribute. Trident just came through with $1500.
Once again artist Susan Schneider, who teaches watercolor and painting throughout Seattle and at Ballard’s Senior Center, has taken it upon herself to ask for a donation from every business in the downtown area. She’s gathered over 70 gifts from businesses, from a safe donated by a security system to a $100 sponsorship from Sterling Bank. She’s discovered places new to her (Nightingale on Market), and new owners who are immediately generous (Bad Albert’s).
Meanwhile Carlye Teel’s reach goes far beyond Ballard to the Board members who live in Edmonds and Laurelhurst. Their parents used the center. They met Teel at Ballard Rotary. Teel was a sorority sister. (She’s very persuasive). Whether the auction committee does it for Carlye, for the community, for the exercise, for the Senior Center that serves Queen Anne, Ballard and Magnolia the result is always positive. An airplane ride, canned fish, FBI training, the most expensive bottle of wine, a fun evening…everyone has the winning bid when the Senior Center doors are open for business and Carlye Teel is waiting inside to give you a big hug.
The “Spring for Seniors” dinner and auction is 5 p.m. Sunday, March 25, 2012 at Leif Erickson Hall. Call 206.297.0403 to reserve a seat. More information including donors, sponsorship and auction items available at www.ballardseniorcenter.org.