SEASIDE — This year, 12 Seaside High School graduates will pay part of their college tuition with scholarships from the Seaside Rotary. The Rotary’s total donation toward higher education this year: $22,500.
Last year, 550 low-income children, facing a bleak holiday, opened Christmas presents, thanks to efforts by the Rotary, which works annually with local residents participating in the community Wishing Tree program.
Every year, two students, representing the Seaside Rotary, travel to foreign countries for a year as exchange students. Foreign students, sponsored by other Rotary clubs, spend time in Seaside.
There are other Rotary projects, too: Seaside Head Start received a new freezer, refrigerator and microwave oven from the Rotary. Playground equipment in Broadway Park, designed for children ages 2 to 5 years old, was purchased with a donation from Rotary, and Rotarians helped to install the equipment.
Sparkly new high school graduates stayed a little safer on graduation night with a chemical-free party sponsored by the Rotary. The party has become an annual event.
Families in Honduras, Indonesia, Tanzania and India cook on more efficient stoves and drink clean water, thanks to the contributions made by the Seaside Rotary, in conjunction with Rotary clubs throughout the world.
How can one club with just 42 members support all of those projects?
It works half a year to put on a dinner auction that nets at least $55,000 from the sale of items donated by the community. This year’s items include a martini party with a limousine, a trip to Hollywood and several special dinners.
This year, the auction begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. The theme is “Night of the Stars,” and, although Ringo Starr, who was rumored to be hanging out on his yacht off of the 17th Street Dock in Astoria this week, probably won’t make it, others are scheduled to appear.
Marilyn Monroe, known for singing “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy, might perform a special song when she climbs out of a limousine, said Mary Blake, who is in charge of the auction’s decorations. Blake is the general manager for the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.
Even though Bette Midler can’t be at the party, her other personality, Delores Delago, the mermaid in a wheelchair, may be there. But Delago might back out at the last minute. “She’s pretty shallow,” Blake said.
Lady La La definitely has a reservation, however, as does Buffalo Bill Cody, who looks a lot like Stewart Martin, Seaside Rotary president.
“But it doesn’t stop there,” Blake said. “A red carpet will be rolled out, and paparazzi will be hanging out. There will be a live video stream and everyone walking down the red carpet will be displayed on two big screens set up on stage.
“A mirror ball will be hung; light is going to hit it and stars will be flying off of it.
“And if you’re not in a good mood by then, the bubbly – either sparkling cider or champagne – should help,” Blake said.
But the stars aren’t the only people planning to have a good time. Anyone can come, dressed to attend a movie premiere or clad in beach casual, Blake said. Tickets are $50.
Besides “star-gazing,” guests will have a chance to make bids on three tables of silent auction items, including ceramics, wines, bowling passes, clothing, various business services and artwork.
Buyers of auction items may receive tax deductions for the amount over each item’s actual cost, Blake said.
A “premiere” silent auction, consisting of higher-end items, also is planned.
The live auction will begin at 8:05 p.m., right after a dinner of prime rib, halibut or a vegetarian selection.
Among the items included in the live auction are the popular Youth Exchange Dinner, where the Rotary’s youth exchange students prepare dinner for the highest bidders and their guests.
A dinner featuring everything organic put on by Blake also is a regular auction item, as well as a “mystery dinner” in Cannon Beach.
To maintain the “star quality” theme, many live auction items are named after movies. A package including tickets to a Mariners baseball game, for instance, is called “The Natural.” A fishing trip is tagged “The River Runs Through It,” and a year’s fitness pass with a personal trainer has been nicknamed “Rocky.”
During the night, there will be a “blinky” raffle, where blinking stars will be sold for $100 each. The raffle winner will be able to choose a prize to keep among most of the live auction items.
The money from the “blinky” raffle goes to the Wishing Tree program, a favorite of auction co-chairwoman Sandy McDowall. She is being assisted by co-chairman Jason Schermerhorn.
“The Wishing Tree is emotional for a lot of people,” McDowall said.
The program, which involves much of the Seaside community, requires about $35,000 in contributed presents and other items; at least one-third of those donations come from the Rotary, McDowall said. The rest comes from other organizations and individuals who buy gifts for children whose clothing sizes and Christmas wishes are written on paper bells attached to paper trees in local businesses.
The presents are wrapped during a huge wrapping party, attended by nearly 300 people a week before Christmas, and Rotary members deliver the presents during the next few days.
“You knock on the door, and the families come out, and the children, with their faces all bright, receive gifts from the community. It just chokes you up,” Blake said.
A “paddle auction” also is planned during the night, with proceeds to go toward construction of a new food pantry for Seaside. The current building housing the South County Food Bank needs to be repaired or replaced.
During the “paddle auction,” participants bid against each other to donate to the cause. The highest donation bid goes to the food pantry.
While the Rotary conducts a few fundraisers through the year, the money from the auction is “essential” to the support of the Rotary’s projects, said club President Stewart Martin.
If it didn’t collect the $70,000 to $90,000 gross needed every year, some projects might have to be reduced or eliminated, he said.
“We haven’t had to face that,” Martin said. “We would have to do some soul-searching and ask what lasts and what has to go.”
The magic of those contributions is that they are multiplied many times by volunteers who devote several hours to projects, by those who house and feed exchange students at no cost to Rotary and by matches with other clubs to build safe water systems, donate efficient stoves and eradicate polio in foreign countries, Martin said.
A majority of the donations go to local students heading to college or trying to stay in college.
Tom Maltman, chairman of the Rotary’s scholarship committee, said 12 students this year will benefit from $22,500 in scholarship money distributed by the Rotary Foundation.
Student applicants are considered on their academic performance, school activities, community involvement, leadership and an essay.
Gavin Brown, a film and production major at Pacific University in Forest Grove, received $1,500 toward his tuition.
“Every bit of financial assistance helps,” he said. “College isn’t cheap these days, and every bit of support helps immensely. ... The Rotary has helped so much with my education.”
At least 300 places have been set at tables in the convention center, and McDowall hopes they all will be filled. She already is amazed at the 200-plus items donated for the auctions.
“This is the most incredibly generous community,” she said. “The donations have been very generous, very kind and very big. It’s an amazing community.”
One, she added, that’s full of stars of its own.