'We are on a mission'

Mar. 21—MOSES LAKE — You know it's a successful auction when a carrot cake sells for $10,000.

"It set the tone for the whole evening," said Leanne Parton, executive director of the Big Bend Community College Foundation, which hosted its annual Cellarbration! Auction on Saturday. "We had 50 more people than last year, and just tremendous support from our community. Quite a few new companies in the room; that was fabulous. So we just feel incredibly blessed."

Cellarbration! raised a total of $234,515, Assistant Director Chandra Rodriguez said Wednesday after all the numbers were crunched, the most the event has ever brought in. The money goes to provide scholarships for Big Bend students from all over the college's service area.

The event included a silent auction, done all online this year to widen the bidding pool; a live auction conducted by Jacob Barth of Chuck Yarbro Auctioneers that included the high-ticket dessert; a prime rib and salmon dinner catered by Michael's on the Lake; and the selection of wines that gives the event its name.

The live auction began with seven desserts, including the high-ticket cake donated by Kerry Scheller, and moved on to several getaway packages and dinner outings, half a hog butchered and wrapped, an artisanal walnut dining set and a child's ride-on tractor, among other offerings.

There were a few other opportunities to donate as well. There was a wine wall, where a bottle of wine cost $100 and came with an entry into a drawing. The winner was entitled to claim their choice of the live auction items, which turned out to be a week-long vacation in Hawaii.

At the end of the evening there was a raise-the-paddle event for donations to the foundation's emergency fund, which helps out students who find themselves in unexpected financial straits.

"We came in at $40,450 this year (for the emergency fund)," Parton said. "Last year was $25,280. So that was up $15,000 as well."

Before the auction, second-year BBCC nursing student Ty Tait spoke about what the foundation's help had meant to him. Tait had originally studied to become a physician's assistant, he said, but the prerequisite courses he had paid thousands of dollars for lapsed when he took time out to pursue a church mission and he was forced to start over. A friend convinced him to try nursing at Big Bend instead.

"Not one week before starting my second year of nursing school, I lost one of my biggest supporters when my dad suddenly passed away," Tait said. "I was lost and alone. His absence has left a void. But I found solace in the unwavering support of my wife and the Big Bend community who stood by me and continues to stand by me during some of my darkest moments ... My grandfather was a very generous person. And when asked why he was so generous, he would often respond by saying 'It's just money. I can't take it with me.' As I've learned with the recent passing of my father, the only thing that we can take with us when we pass is our knowledge, knowledge that many of us gain through education."

"We are here for the students who will benefit from the money we raise tonight," said BBCC President Sara Thompson Tweedy. "They may be nameless to us now, but we stand on a tradition that this event will make a difference in people's lives. Back in June of last year, I met a woman. She didn't have a high school diploma. And upon learning that I told her that she could get her GED from Big Bend, and that she could go to college. And she smiled at me politely. Well, that very person showed up in my office three weeks ago, to tell me that not only has she completed her GED, but she was going to sign up for college classes for this spring quarter. Now, she has children that she is working to put through college. The enormous barriers that she faced in getting her education, well, she removed them for her children.

"I am incredibly honored to be president of this college that does so much to help and serve the good people who live in the communities of Grant and Adams counties," she added. "We are on a mission."

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.