The Franklin County Red Cross brought its 2012 Heroes Community Campaign to a close on a high – both a chocolate high and with excitement from achieving its fundraising goal.
Campaign chair John Higginbotham made the goal announcement Thursday to a group of about 50 gathered at the Glen-Willis House for this year’s event, Spirits and Chocolates.
Higginbotham, cable superintendent at the Frankfort Plant Board, was chosen by the Red Cross board to head the three month campaign.
“We are pleased that the Heroes Campaign brought in $45,000 for the Red Cross’ local operations,” Higginbotham said.
“We were a little concerned when, right after we began, tornadoes struck. Since people are always so generous when we are working on disasters, we weren’t sure how the money would then come in for the Heroes Community Campaign.”
But according to Higginbotham, 35 donors stepped forward to answer the call of donating $1,000 to become a Red Cross Hero, and the rest of the money came from individuals and organizations.
“We’ll announce our generous donors at a later date, but we must acknowledge our biggest donor – Stewart Home School – that through ingenuity and dedication from its staff brought in $3,000.”
Higginbotham talked about the creative way the school for people with special needs held events among its staff to raise the money.
“This was strictly a group of people being highly creative and ultimately being very generous to the Red Cross. Their policy is to never raise money through student donations, so we are incredibly proud of the school staff,” Higginbotham said.
“I think many people think the $1,000 donation must come from one source, but there are many ways organizations and the community can participate and I think Stewart Home School is a great example,” Higginbotham told The State Journal.
Red Cross Executive Director Paula Rutledge, now in her 18th year at the helm of the organization, said the money will go toward safety training, volunteer community services, local assistance to those who face personal disasters and training for everything from babysitters to lifeguards.
“I heard recently at a seminar a speaker say, ‘No money, no mission.’ In our case, it takes the generosity of the public or we can’t meet the needs of all the services we provide,” Rutledge said.
Farmers Bank executive Rick Pogrotsky serves on the Red Cross Board of Directors. He organized the Spirits and Chocolate event and said the group wanted a more intimate event to conclude the fundraising.
“We wanted the homey atmosphere that Glen-Willis provides, and we wanted it open to anyone to feel welcome and to taste and enjoy what our community has to offer,” Pogrotsky said.
Prior to the event, board members Fred Goins and Debbie Wilson hung balloons outside Glen-Willis to bring attention to the event.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my career, but balloon hanging in the wind may be the most challenging,” the Frankfort city manager told Wilson as he laughed.
Local distillers Jim Beam and Buffalo Trace had representatives on hand to offer tastes of their bourbon products in cocktail glasses.
“We’re delighted to support the Red Cross and to be part of this Frankfort event,” Jerry Summers, community relations director at Jim Beam, said.
In addition, Prodigy Vineyards and Winery, owned locally by Chad and Lenee Peach, offered guests both white and red wines.
“That’s another thing we wanted to do is showcase local businesses in our community who always so generously support us,” Pogrotsky said.
Tickets for the event were $15 and admission included chocolate as well as food samples provided by Terri Sullivan, owner of Terri’s Catering and the Glen-Willis House.
A chocolate fountain, with everything from strawberries, Rice Krispies treats and Nutter Butter cookies, was a popular draw for many.
“I love the marshmallows,” Helen Hall Abney, 5, said as she visited the fountain for a second time. “Now where are those plates?”
Cakes, both homemade and professionally made, along with Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls were up for bid in a silent auction. Tanglewood Pie, provided by The Terrace Restaurant in the Capital Plaza Hotel, also drew great interest.
But it was a decadent, three-layer chocolate cake made by Stacy Jacobs, a Red Cross volunteer, and purchased by Helen’s grandfather, Granville Coblin, that had the little Abney wanting a taste at the end of the evening.
She knelt in front of the cake as though saying a prayer and asked, “Can’t I have some now?”
She got a quick “no” from her grandparents and her mother, Susan, as she impishly smiled and went in with her fingers toward the frosting.
The Spirits and Chocolate event raised an additional $1,885 for the Red Cross Heroes Community Campaign.