The fourth-annual “Community Chest” benefit dinner Sunday night at La Place Rendez-Vous managed to exceed organizers’ expectations, bringing in $16,100—about $1,100 more than last year—to help local families with medical expenses.
“It was a great evening. Really a lot of fun,” said George Blanc, co-organizer and co-owner of the Rendez-Vous.
“We hovered around $14,000 for the past few years. But the generosity of the community was a little different this year—more crafts and items like that,” he noted.
“I think that really got people bidding,” added Blanc, referring to the live and silent auctions which were responsible for about $9,000 of the funds raised.
“It was quite successful—it was almost sold out,” said Alan Zucchiatti, president of the local Kiwanis Club and one of the dinner’s several organizers.
“We had a lot of raffle and auction items for people to bid on. And I think everyone thought it was a great evening,” he added.
Linda Hamilton, co-organizer of both the dinner and the “Spirit of Christmas,” said the success of the fundraiser will go towards great lengths securing the future of the “Community Chest.”
“Perhaps our biggest push ever will be this year with our partnership with Safeway. If we can keep our coffers full, we’ll be able to keep going,” she remarked.
Cheryl Lovisa, attending the dinner for the first time, was among the 270 who turned out.
“I came here to support the local community,” she said. “Anybody can be hit with a medical emergency at any time so it’s good to see everybody here in support of local families.”
“I think it’s a great event for the community,” echoed Coun. Deane Cunningham. “All the proceeds go to people who really need it.”
Jack Cameron, the evening’s main guest speaker, delivered a message about the spirit of volunteerism. “Volunteerism is the rent you have to pay to live in a community,” he began.
Cameron went on to relay the importance of service clubs, noting the passing of George Wood and Sid Asselin, whom he knew as fellow former Kinsmen.
“They are but two people we can look to as role models when we think of volunteerism,” he remarked.
He also lamented the disbanding of the Rotary Club, but then went on to say the spirit of volunteerism was far from dead here, pointing out a recent edition of the Fort Frances Times that featured seven stories on fundraising and acts of charity.
Cameron then congratulated the Rendez-Vous staff, the Kiwanians, Lions, Knights of Columbus, and the “Spirit of Christmas” committee on putting together yet another benefit dinner.
The silent and live auctions featured such items as prints by Cher Hogan and Pam Brandrick, original paintings by Peter Spuzak, Vi Plumridge, and Jean Richards, quilts by Lila Weir and Mary Johnson, knitting by Jean Boileau, and a gumball machine made by Brian Calder.
Some of the items fetching high bids included a diamond bangle bracelet from Brockie’s Jewellers ($550), an original watercolour donated by Wendy Angus ($300), Blue Heron carving by Ray Coran ($355), a luggage set donated by Ducks Unlimited ($200), a Tiffany lamp from Ann Evans ($200), and a watercolour donated by Clare Brunetta Law Offices ($240).
Rendez-Vous co-owner Paul Noonan called his staff up on stage, where they received a round of applause, while Hamilton, Zucchiatti, Luke Schill, and Blanc all spoke briefly on behalf of the “Spirit of Christmas,” Kiwanis, Lions, and Knights of Columbus, respectively.
The evening, which was emceed by Larry Cousineau, wrapped up with a live auction featuring auctioneer Telford Advent.
Given the success of this year’s dinner, Blanc said he’s confident the “Community Chest” tradition will carry on and on.
“As long as we can get the co-operation from everyone, we’ll keep on doing it,” he pledged.