Sunday, February 4, 2018

Coming Together for AIOH 2018

In the fall, I (Amanda) started thinking about our annual fundraiser event: Always in Our Hearts. I considered what would be the same and different from last year. I dreamed of having it in a beautiful venue, but I didn't think we would be able to make that happen for a few years on our limited budget. I talked to my husband about my dream for event and a few others, and contacted Merryman Station in late November.

I knew about Merryman Station because the owner, Mandy Thomas, was in my Bible study group for a short time the year she and her husband purchased the building. I watched them renovate it for a couple years through Facebook and was impressed with the final result. Mandy had also shared with me her story of child loss, and I felt a kindred spirit with her through that.

When I thought about where I wanted to have our fundraiser eventually, I immediately wanted to have our fundraiser in this space to support Mandy and as a reflection of our ministry. Merryman Station has been part of the Central Valley for over 100 years; it's surrounded by orange groves and sits on the 198 in Exeter, just between the cities and the foothills. Inside and out, it's a rustic farmhouse haven. The wood and lighting make it cozy, but also reflect its age. Somewhat similarly, our organization stands for hope in the midst of turmoil. Those who have lost a child have suffered long and hard, and our loss never goes away; we just learn to live with it. On "the other side" of child loss and with Jesus Christ in my life, I know there is hope.

When I contacted Merryman Station, initially I was told that they were booked solid in January and February, but they would double-check their calendar to see if we could be squeezed in. After checking in with Mandy a couple more times in December, I was finally told right before Christmas that there were two openings for us to choose from in January! Incredible! And it would cost $1000 after our discount...WAN WAN WAN. We typically don't even have that much in our account, so I had no idea how we would pay for this venue, so I thought about it for a couple days.

In the meantime, I started visiting and emailing local businesses and artisans to ask for donations for the silent auction. Some people never responded to my emails, others said "we get asked for a lot of donations so we have to be selective," but several others jumped at the opportunity to support us! Those who responded were extremely generous, kind, and excited about what we do. They knew there was a need for our organization and desired to support it. Over a dozen people gave us donations and we ended up with around 25 quality items to auction. CJ Hopper Photography gave us a $200 voucher!! I was shocked! Who gives away $200 of profit?? Wow.

After a couple days consideration about how to pay for Merryman Station and if it was worth it, I came up with an idea. I went over to my auto repair shop to ask for a $500 donation. Why there? I knew the owners are Christian as they're major supporters of our local Christian radio station. I felt like they're generous people, so what was the worst that could happen? They'd say "no" and I would table my dream venue for another year. I got a meeting with the owner, Santos, for Jan. 4 which was just 22 days before our event was to take place. He fully supported what we were doing and completely understood why I wanted to have the event in a special venue. He readily agreed to a $500 donation and wanted to find other ways to help us. Amazing!

Immediately, we let everyone know when and where our event would be. It was going to be the beautiful dream I had! I couldn't believe it!! My father-in-law's band agreed to play for our event at no cost so we could have live music. A couple weeks before the event I was reading in the Enjoy magazine about Component Coffee Lab, based out of Visalia with a mobile coffee cart. I sent an email asking "How does this mobile coffee cart work for an event I'm hosting?" He sent me a price, and I said that we couldn't afford that this year but perhaps in the future. He then asked if it was for a private or public event. I told him it was for a fundraiser for my nonprofit organization. A few minutes later, one of the owners, Jonathan, wrote me back saying they would show up for no charge to us ANNNDD give us a percentage of that night's proceeds. I nearly fell over when I read this, you guys! Seriously! Who does this?? These people don't even know me! He read a little about us on our website and "felt compelled" to help as a father and a Christian.

Donations for the silent auction continued pouring in, even on the day of the event! A majority of the tickets we sold were in the days just before the event when I wasn't sure we were even going to have enough people present to bid on all the fabulous items I had collected. On the day of the event, everything came together perfectly. It was all organized and just as I had imagined. Driving up that night to the building, all fantastically lit up, I felt like the belle of the ball. I teared up a little and smiled with a full heart of joy and gladness. It was a most beautiful and fun evening celebrating what we have accomplished and hope to achieve. It was a marker for our future that lies ahead. Nearly $1200 was raised by the silent auction items alone, and many individual gifts of $50-$100 were given during the month by those who were unable to attend. Component Coffee Lab donated 80% of their profits from the evening! (Go support these guys, people! They're at the Farmer's Market every Saturday and have a shop downtown now.)
This event wouldn't have happened without my husband. He watched our kids several times so I could go do stuff to prepare for the event. He helped me think through it all and fully-supported me when I felt overwhelmed by all of it. I'm also so grateful for my co-founder, Aubin, who put up with my to-do lists and went shopping for everything. I love you both!

No comments:

Post a Comment