TERRE HAUTE —
Fuqua Elementary is gearing up for its sixth annual charity auction to raise money for two important causes, the Vigo County School Corp. backpack program and Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries.
The event is Tuesday at the school, 1111 Wheeler Ave. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., the silent auction is from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and the live auction is at 7 p.m.
Last year, the event raised $10,000 and this year’s goal is to exceed that, said Julie Bender, fifth-grade teacher who has organized the event each year. She began preparing for this year’s event in July.
Among the auction items are Colts football tickets for the Dec. 29 game, a 32-inch flat screen TV, autographed Steve Weatherford memorabilia, a football signed by Andrew Luck, a camera, iPad, an American Girl Doll, a year’s family membership to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, themed baskets and packages and much more.
The event has several sponsors and donors. “The community has really supported it,” Bender said.
Other school staff assist, and Bender’s students distribute fliers about the auction.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about why Fuqua does it,” she said. She tells her students, “The community is so good to us that it’s our job to give back to the community any way that we can.”
The VCSC backpack program sends food home with needy students on weekends, and at Fuqua, “We pass out 35 to 40 bags each Friday,” she said. Every VCSC school participates in the program.
“That’s a lot of food to supply,” Bender said.
A few weeks ago, one of her students had to leave school early on Friday for an appointment. He asked her, “I’ll still get my bag, won’t I?” That’s how important the backpack program is to students in need, she said.
The backpack program was started at Terre Haute North Vigo High School by Susan Eisman, media specialist. In fall 2012, the program was expanded corporation wide under Superintendent Dan Tanoos.
Last year, the average weekly request corporation-wide was for 600 students. The cost that year was more than $60,000. All support must come from donations of money or supplies.
“The reality for many children, regardless of their age, is that schools provide their only source of food,” Eisman said. “They worry all week about having food each and every weekend. Instead of focusing on school work or being able to enjoy time away from classes, many focus on the fact that they will miss seven meals in a row.”
The backpack program moves them from a position of fear to one of hope, Eisman said. “After a few weeks, you can see the change on their faces.”
Tom Lentes, the district’s director of food services, said the backpack program “is desperately needed.”
At some of the inner-city, higher-poverty schools, “We can tell the kids who are hungry,” Lentes said. They eat everything on their trays. At schools where there is less poverty, children are a little more selective about what they eat.
Because of the high cost of the backpack program last year, the menu has been scaled back somewhat and now includes such things as a jar of peanut butter, saltine crackers, a can of sausages and applesauce, Lentes said.
The Fuqua fundraiser will go a long way to help needy children have food to eat each weekend, he said. “We hope with fundraising, we can offer kids a little bit more,” Lentes said.
Goodwill Industries, another beneficiary of the Fuqua auction, hopes to use funds to upgrade computer equipment in its free labs that are used by the public.
“Certainly, Goodwill Industries exists on donations,” said Bill Tennis, executive director of Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries.
Each year, the school district raises money for worthy causes, and this year’s beneficiaries are the backpack program and Goodwill Industries.
At Tuesday’s fundraising event, pizza, hot dogs, desserts and drinks will be available for purchase, Bender said. The event will take place in the new gym.
She is still accepting donations of money or items for the fundraising event. Bender can be contacted at the school by calling 462-4304.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.