COLUMN: Gala at TVCC a good way to while away an evening

ONTARIO – The first item up for live auction Friday night at Treasure Valley Community College’s Foundation Gala caught my attention.

For sale, so to speak, was a work party made up of players from the Chukar baseball team. You could get six to eight players for up to four hours for muscling through whatever chore needed doing.

My timing was awful. Just hours earlier, we had finished moving into the new offices of the Malheur Enterprise. Some Chukar brawn would have been handy.

Still, the gala proved to be a great tonic for a hard day at the office for the move.

And the real winners from the night’s event were students. The annual event raises money for the foundation to fund scholarships.

But there’s a lot of fun getting that money into the till, so to speak.

The event is, of course, one place to catch up with people from all over the county. I hardly had time to prowl through the silent auction items (I got aced out on the pies) because I was so busy chatting. I did get time with Judge Frank Yraguen and his wife Patty and with Mike and Debbie Blackaby. I also caught up with developer Riley Hill, sort-of-retired farmer Bill Johnson, Dirk DeBoer and Ron Kulm.

Abby Lee, a TVCC executive who also happens to be an Idaho state senator, updated me on moves to eliminate Idaho’s sales tax on groceries. That’s an item of interest on the Oregon side of the river because the city of Ontario is moving towards taxing groceries.

Speaking of the city, Mayor Ron Verini and I had a pleasant chat despite his unhappiness with our report just two days earlier about the city. We agreed to go have coffee and chat another time about business and instead enjoy the evening and its purpose.

He wasn’t hard to spot for he was wearing one of the hottest fashion items of the night – a bling ring. These rather gawdy rings flashed in colors, but they gave buyers a chance to step in and cash the ring as the winning bid on any silent auction item. Looked like a lot of gamblers in the room, judging by the number of rings sold.

And to pad the till even more, the foundation “sold” a deck of cards, card by card for $20. This was a variation on the standard 50-50 raffle, and boy did folks line up in a hurry to get a shot at grabbing the $520 pot. Of course, that also left $520 for scholarship support.

The crowd didn’t have much time to settle down as Cathy Yasuda, the foundation executive director, showed why she’d be an effective game show host. Amazing how much enthusiasm she can pack into a few moments. She had strong support up on that main stage, with Dale Jeffries deploying that radio voice as master of ceremonies and auctioneer Tyson Baker extracting every last dollar possible while leaving people feeling good.

Unless you’re on the planning committee, it’s hard to understand just how much work these major functions can be. But TVCC, Four Rivers Cultural Center, and caterer Matsy’s with desserts by Sodexo all made it flow without a hitch or heartache.

Foundation officials are still tallying the night’s results, but Yasuda thinks it was the best gala ever. That’s good news for those who attended. It’s even better, though, for the true beneficiaries – the students who get a better shot at an education thanks to these all-important local scholarships.

Les Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise.