A Rotary Club of Peterborough tradition that’s been 30 years in the making is returning as an in-person event and Rotarian Bruce Gravel, for one, couldn’t be more excited.
The service club’s annual dinner and auction gala, which was held virtually over the course of the pandemic, will be held Friday, April 28th at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club off Armour Road.
With a goal of raising $25,000 for the Rise Youth Housing Program offered by the YES Shelter for Youth and Families, tickets cost $150 and are available online at bit.ly/RotaryAuction2023 until noon on Monday, April 24th. Tickets include a charitable tax receipt for $70.
Gravel, who is co-chairing the event with fellow Rotarian Amy Simpson — they’ve both been at the helm of the auction committee for 10 years — says while the virtual presentations of the event were as successful as could be expected, this is an event that’s meant to be experienced in person.
“A big part of the evening is the socializing and the camaraderie,” says Gravel, a past president of the club that meets every second Monday at the Holiday Inn in downtown Peterborough. “There’s an energy in the room and people feed off that. (Auctioneer) Rob Rusland is amazing. He works the crowd and you’ve got to be in the room for that.”
First held in 1993, the dinner and auction is one of two major annual fundraisers that club organizes. The first is the Carl Oake Rotary Swim, which was held for the 37th time this past March and has raised an estimated $1.37 million since its inception for various organizations — Easter Seals and the Five Counties Children’s Centre among them.
With a $30,000 goal, the bulk of this year’s dinner and auction proceeds ($25,000) will go to the Rising Youth Housing Program, with anything in excess of that amount going to other Rotary-supported projects.
Gravel notes that during the 10 years he and Simpson have overseen the auction committee, there have been various benefactors. For six years, proceeds were earmarked for Habitat for Humanity’s Youth Build Program and, then for two years, Homeward Bound Peterborough. Money raised last year supported the new medical centre at Camp Kawartha, which the club founded way back in 1921 as its first major project.
“Part of our club’s centennial commitment (in 2021) was to make a major donation to the Rise Youth Housing Program,” says Gravel, noting that commitment involves gifting $25,000 per year over several years.
“The program is quite unique. It’s targeted to youth, basically teenagers, who all of a sudden find themselves on their own. The goal is to keep them off the street by teaching them how to maintain a place of their own in terms of cooking, cleaning, budgeting … basically surviving on their own in a proper manner rather than being totally destitute and falling into the things that you can fall into (when that happens).”
Over the course of the past few club meetings, Rotarians have heard success stories associated with the program, notes Gravel.
“Stories of teens who were going down the wrong path — they came from broken homes or abusive or drug-addicted parents. They had to leave to save themselves. The program has taken them in and taught them life skills. They’ve turned their lives around. They’ve finished high school. They’ve gone onto college. Some are now working in various fields. These are kids who would have been on the street otherwise. The program has given them self-confidence.”
Better still, adds Gravel, YES is fully partnering with Rotary on the event, with agency representatives sitting on the planning committee, drumming up auction items, and booking two tables.
The event itself will feature both silent and live auctions, with 12 tables of items as part of the former and Rusland doing his thing for the latter, auctioning off 24 items. And new this time around, there will be live music, with a cellist and a flutist from the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra serenading the pre-dinner reception at 6 p.m.. Dinner itself will consist of three courses and wine beginning at 7 p.m.
Noting the event is an all-hands-on-deck undertaking for the club, Gravel says his fellow Rotarians not only attend in great numbers but also secure auction items.
“All service clubs are being challenged in terms of membership but they’re still vital,” says Gravel. “Size doesn’t necessarily mean effectiveness. We have dropped in membership but we’re holding steady now at around 70 members. The vitality of our club continues, whether we’re at 120 members or at 70 members. Whatever we do, we do try to make it fun.”
In the meantime, Gravel is prepared for the prospect of loading his car at night’s end with newly acquired auction items.
“While I’m running around making sure everything is going smoothly, my spouse (Frances) is running around bidding. I know we haul a lot of stuff to the auction but I never know until the end of the evening how much stuff I’m hauling home. She has her own credit card — she doesn’t need mine.”
Having served 10 years as event co-chair, Gravel says it doesn’t feel like it has been that long, noting the time has “zoomed by.”
“When you’re doing something you love, time shoots right by. It’s a fun commitment.”
For more information about other projects the Rotary Club of Peterborough is involved in, visit www.peterboroughrotary.ca. For more information about YES Shelter for Youth and Families, including the Rise Youth Housing Program, visit yesshelter.ca.