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Valentine Gala Surpasses Goal with Online Fundraiser

By Laura McFarland Editor, Powhatan Today, Feb. 18, 2021

POWHATAN – The eighth annual Valentine Gala looked and felt extremely different this year, but even without getting to dress up for the ball, two Powhatan nonprofits got their Cinderella moments with the results of the annual fundraiser.

The gala, which benefits the Free Clinic of Powhatan and Habitat for Humanity – Powhatan, is usually a black tie dinner, dance, and auction held at the Mill at Fine Creek. But because of COVID-19 restrictions, organizers switched gears to hold an online campaign in February 2021 to raise money and awareness for the two nonprofits.

The effort was successful, with the fundraiser raising a few thousand dollars in excess of its $70,000 goal, with proceeds to be split evenly between the two, said Terry Sanders, who is president of the Habitat board and co-chair of the gala committee with Connie Moslow.

Everyone involved was elated with the results, Sanders said, but from what they have heard from other nonprofits, it wasn’t a total surprise. “I think something else to consider is how helpless we have all felt during this pandemic. It is not like we are research scientists or physicians or nurses that were able to help the sick and develop a vaccine to help the future,” she said. “By giving to any fundraiser – but I will say this fundraiser – you were making an effort to reach out and help those in need.”

More specific than just a general feeling of good will, the Free Clinic and Habitat are two organizations that people can see how real and true the need is and help fill that need, Moslow said. “You don’t have to explain too much when somebody is sick and in pain and has no money to take care of it. Or somebody has a mouth that is inflamed and abscessed twice its size and there is no place they can go,” she said. “When the so-called average person has pain, they can’t wait. Every minute they wait to talk to a doctor or get into a doctor’s office is a long time. You just can’t imagine what it is like when you don’t have the money and you have to live with things like this.” Moslow is appreciative of every dollar that comes into the clinic, which is scheduled to open for business in its new home on Skaggs Road this week. She pointed out that the new expanded space means many new resources for the community, but they also come with a heftier price tag. And with the pandemic playing havoc on people’s finances and mental health, those services are extra important as individuals struggle with loss of jobs, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and more, Moslow said. “This wonderful event with that wonderful amount of money is very much needed and is going to be used. So it is fabulous,” Moslow said. While Habitat for Humanity is known for its homebuilding projects, Powhatan has placed a huge emphasis in recent years on its critical repair program, executive director Susan Winiecki said. At an average of $1,400 for each repair, the results of the fundraiser will mean about 25 additional critical repairs. “That is 25 more we can get done, especially for seniors, who are feeling especially isolated during this time,” she said. In preparation of the campaign, the two nonprofits worked together and hired a company to create a video that paid homage to the gala’s origins – with Del. Lee Ware and his wife Kathy appearing in black tie apparel – while also highlighting the heart of what the nonprofits are about using interviews with their leadership and some of the people they have helped. The majority of the funds the video gala project brought in were through 90 individual and company sponsorships, which was a phenomenal showing, Sanders said. The feedback about the campaign was overwhelmingly supportive. “They have all been supportive. They have all understood that this is a different time. I am sure they have heard from other organizations that this year there are a lot of virtual appeals going on. The need is still there and maybe manifests even greater because of this pandemic,” Sanders said. Depending on their level of giving, sponsors received a certain amount of tickets to try to win raffle prizes. The original prize drawing on Feb. 14 was postponed because of weather but went great when it was held on Feb. 21, she said. Among the funds raised, $1,250 came from events held with four local businesses during the campaign, Winiecki said. She praised Mulberry Layne, Hobby Hill Farm, Three Crosses Distilling Co., and Crazy Rooster Brewing Co. for holding or participating in fundraisers that benefited the gala. “It was also a real joy to invite more people to know about our work and then have them join in the three weeks with many events,” she said. “It was wonderful to be in so many places around the county spreading the word about the work, so we thank them.” Organizers have already set the date for the Feb. 11, 2022, Valentine Gala and hope the situation will have improved enough to hold an in-person event, Winiecki said. But because of the success of the online campaign, she anticipates they will incorporate some of what they learned this year into the next event. Laura McFarland may be reached at 0 comments

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