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Dream Auction’s 12th will be its last
The 12th annual Dream Auction fundraiser figures to be a bittersweet affair later this month, as it will be the swan song for the core group of organizers who will be stepping down afterward.
Sally Houston has long been one of the driving forces behind the event and together with event chair Susan Johnsen and a handful of others at Gilmore Park United Church have spent much of the last several months planning for the Nov. 30 luncheon at the Vancouver Delta Airport Hotel on Cessna Drive on Sea Island.
Houston recalled that before 2001, the Dream Auction was simply a Gilmore Park Church event which raised money for church needs such as stained glass windows and a piano.
“Then we decided we needed to be helping people in the community. And we needed to let people know there was poverty in Richmond,” she said.
Poverty in Richmond? People couldn’t believe it, said Houston, who for three decades worked as a teacher and saw the innocent face of poverty inside schools.
“12 years ago when we started to quote the statistics of the poverty, people didn’t believe us. They thought we were making it up...We both have a long history of watching kids come to school without breakfast.”
Houston recalls a little girl coming to school with a lunch pail packed with just the remainder of a partially-eaten apple.
“They’d look up quickly and say ‘Oh, mummy forgot to put my lunch in today.’ And I’d say well would you like some soup and crackers. So then I’d take them down to the staff room and we had teachers doing that all the time. We actually saw the empty lunch pails or the empty lunch bags or the kids sitting there fidgeting because they weren’t allowed to go out to play until the actual eating time was over, but they didn’t have anything to eat.”
So each year, some $5,000 is directed to the Richmond school district for its breakfast program.
At the community meals, it’s not uncommon to see whole families come with children.
“These are not people that are shirking their responsibilities. Many of them, two people have jobs, but there is not enough money because by the time they pay rent, they don’t have enough money left over for food and some of the other things.”
There are some families that go from one community meal to the next from night to night, she said.
Johnsen said for impoverished families, their choices are often very limited.
“That’s very debilitating. As a parent myself, I think it must be so hard on a parent who’s struggling and wanting to provide every opportunity for their child just as I do, but not having the wherewithal...,” she said.
Houston and Johnsen said the hard work they’ve done over the years has truly been a labour of love.
“Whether or not a person is motivated by their faith, many people are motivated by their own social conscience and what they see are the needs of their community. And when one has been fortunate to lead a life with opportunities for education and a career and a healthy lifestyle, it’s pretty hard not to want to give back,” Johnsen said.
100 per cent of the event’s annual proceeds are directed to the Richmond Food Bank, school lunch programs and other local charitable causes including community meals and Chimo’s Nova House, she said.
After the second year, members of St. Alban’s church jumped aboard to assist, with money earmarked for its weekly Tuesday meals for more than 160 people.
Gilmore Church’s Thursday night community dinners draws more than 160 people weekly.
To date, the Dream Auction has given away $340,000 to the community, said Johnsen.
“All of that money has remained in Richmond and it’s all gone to agencies that try to alleviate the affects of poverty,” she said.
The hope has been that the auction would also serve to raise public awareness of the plight of those who silently and anonymously live in poverty in Richmond, Johnsen said. But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal which was to change public policy hasn’t met with much success, she said.
The 12th annual Dream Auction takes place on Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Delta Vancouver Airport hotel, 3500 Cessna Dr. in Richmond.
Tickets are $40 for adults, $15 for children ages 4 to 12. Children under four are free. Tickets are available at the Gilmore Park United Church’s office at 604-277-5377 or by calling Sally Houston at 604-274-2256.
The Dream Auction features live and silent auctions, a delicious lunch, door prizes and a chance to win a fabulous grand prize from Air Canada.
This year’s goal is to raise $30,000 with proceeds going to the food bank, CHIMO, Richmond Schools Breakfast Program, Stir It Up (a community kitchen for teens) and weekly community meals at Richmond Bethel and Gilmore Park United churches.
While the Dream Auction’s fate seems sealed, organizers of the event have committed themselves to arranging a number of smaller fundraising events in the city throughout the course of the year.
And they’d like to thank all of their sponsors over the years for their tremendous, long-term support.
In particular, Johnsen singled out the owners of the mom-and-pop stores in Steveston for going above and beyond each year to assist the auction and support the cause.
Houston grew up on farm and her parents believed strongly in giving to others.
“I’ve had so many blessings in my life, I’ve been very fortunate, but others haven’t been.”