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PTSA auction will put on a good show during a tough time

Auction procurer Laura Hansen and PTSA president Denise Katz heft a stone statue of Buddha, an item that will be auctioned off on Saturday. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Auction procurer Laura Hansen and PTSA president Denise Katz heft a stone statue of Buddha, an item that will be auctioned off on Saturday.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Cafeteria food, the under-appreciated cuisine of public schools far and wide, is also the fare of this year’s PTSA Auction. Lunch ladies, gloves and all, will serve auctiongoers their dinners — on genuine Vashon High School cafeteria trays — at the Saturday event.

The dressed-down dinner is part of what organizers called “Auction Lite,” a paring down of the sometimes elaborate event that draws hundreds of Islanders in support of the Vashon public schools.

Thanks to donations, a healthy spread of items and experiences will be featured in live and silent auctions — from student-made art to wine tastings to a fly-over of the Island. But Islanders needn’t feel pressured to bid, organizers said.

“We want you to come and support the school, whether you can bid a lot that night or not,” said Lauri Hennessey, the auction’s publicity chair. “We all know that it’s a tough time right now, and there are a lot of demands on people’s money and time.”

Planners of this year’s auction have taken note of the economy and adapted accordingly, spending less than half as much to pull it all together and keeping their goals realistic. While the 2008 auction netted $90,000, organizers said they haven’t set a monetary goal for the May 2 event, which boasts 40 live auction items and three silent auctions.

“We’re only assuming in this economy we’re not going to get anywhere close to that,” Hennessey said. “We know we’re not going to make what we did last year, but we’ll be happy to make anything. ... Anything that we can do this year is fantastic.”

And though their sights aren’t set sky-high, organizers said they were thankful for the outpouring of community support to help put on an event that school officials said is critical to the quality of education on Vashon.

“The major benefit of the auction is that it has allowed us to purchase and do work in curriculum and training that would not have been a part of the district budget,” said Terry Lindquist, Vashon Island School District superintendent. “I just don’t think we would have as strong a school system without the PTSA. They are really critical to our success.”

He said he’s very hopeful that the auction will bring in enough money to fund curriculum alignment and teacher training. Auction proceeds have gone to those needs in years past, and Lindquist said he’ll lobby on their behalf when he and PTSA volunteers decide where this year’s proceeds should be spent.

Organizers are well on their way to making money, since donors have already covered the cost of the event itself, Hennessey said. And more people have donated more items this year than last, a testament to the Island’s commitment to education, she said.

“What is special about this year’s auction, by far, is the generosity of the Island in tough times,” said PTSA president Denise Katz. “This is why we live on this Island — because people are so caring about our schools and kids.”

Like last year, the auction celebrates the childhood and nostalgia of attendees.

“It’s taking you back to your years in school and at the cafeteria,” Katz said.

“The menu will be reflective of the comfort food reminiscent of the school meals of your youth, but oh so enhanced,” said Claudia Campbell, Vashon Island School District’s food service director.

Having Vashon High School lunch ladies — and lunch gentlemen — cater ties in with the nostalgic theme and will save “a lot of money on food,” Hennessey said.

“We’ve gone even deeper into our theme because of the recession,” she said. “Are you going out for a big fancy thing that night? No. You’re going to the cafeteria.”

Besides the less spendy dinner, auction planners are spending less money on drinks, thanks to a hefty wine donation from Chateau St. Michelle, and hired help, thanks to the bartending skills of parents of third-graders, who’ll be accepting tips for the third-grade music program.

There was some question earlier this year about whether the event would even happen, given the poor state of the economy. But PTSA members rallied to put the event on at a fraction of the cost.

“When we decided to do it, we knew that with the recession climate, we were going to have to make it ‘Auction Lite,’” Hennessey said. “We knew everyone was concerned about having an auction in this economic climate, and yes, we are having it, but we’re doing it in a way that’s affordable.”

Proceeds from the auction give Vashon’s public schools a much-needed infusion of money each year, Katz said. In the past three years, the PTSA has contributed $180,000 for the school district to update its curriculum, buying new books and learning materials for classes at the elementary, middle and high schools.

“We help them with so many things,” Katz said. “It’s really important this year now that the budget is going to be impacted that we get as much as possible.”

In addition to the 200-plus auction items, the event will feature a “raise the paddle” for teacher development, when attendees can donate money to that cause by raising their auction numbers.

Still, Katz admitted she’s “a little nervous” about Saturday’s event.

“We’ve put so much time and energy into it,” she said. “We’re not asking people to come in and spend hundreds of dollars if they can’t, but just come. ... We’re just hoping we can get as many people there as possible.”

Auction details

The 2009 Vashon PTSA Auction is 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at O — Open Space for Arts and Community — located at 18870 103rd Ave. S.W. Tickets — $35 apiece — are available at the Vashon Bookshop, Books by the Way and The Little House. Off-island parents or guests can also get tickets by e-mailing Zoe Barlow at zmbarlow@gmail.com.  For more information on the auction, go to www.vashonptsa.org.

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