Linn-Benton Community College Foundation Virtual Gala Raises Critical Funds for Students and Programs

Short films and online clues lead participants through a film noir-style mystery of the “Maltese Roadrunner”

screenshot from the maltese roadrunner youtube series

Community members just moved closer to solving the mystery of how to make the dream of going to college a reality for deserving students.

The Linn-Benton Community College Foundation held its virtual gala and auction this past weekend, successfully raising more than $75,000 for student success. The total surpasses last year’s donations by almost 50%.

“As our community works together to recover from the pandemic, community college provides the gateway to new opportunities,” said Jennifer Boehmer, LBCC Foundation Executive Director. “We are deeply grateful to our community for this outpouring of generosity -- it means help for students today, and more nurses, teachers, small business owners, farmers and machinists for our community tomorrow.”

This year’s event was not just any virtual affair. To encourage people to participate online, community volunteers put together an original movie mini-series fashioned after the great film-noir classics, but with an LB twist: The Maltese Roadrunner. New black-and-white episodes featuring a hilarious gumshoe detective character, Peter Pike, along with volunteer actors revealing new clues were released each week leading up to the gala, providing a unique way for the public to follow along with the theme and get excited for the event. The finale was aired during the gala, bringing the mystery to a close while reinforcing the messages about lifting students up that came with each episode.

“It was so much fun to put together – like deciphering the clues in a virtual escape room,” said Joan Reukauf, president of the LBCC Foundation Board of Directors, and Executive Vice President of the People’s Bank of Commerce. “We are delighted people participated, and even more delighted that LBCC students will have a chance at a better life because of this incredible generosity. It makes a profound difference in our community.”

The power of a community college education 

LBCC students come from all walks of life, often overcoming many barriers that our community members, as donors, can help them overcome -- from lack of stable housing, to food insecurity, to struggling with childcare and more. The need is great: student scholarship applications have increased 45% over the past two years, yet the LBCC Foundation is only able to match 25% of scholarship requests. Yet community aid can reset the entire course of a student’s life...

Dakota Gange, a journalism student at LBCC worked in the restaurant industry until she was laid off when the pandemic hit last year. It was the push that finally made her give college another try. . "My whole adult life, I've tried to go to school and there were all these roadblocks in the way keeping me from it,” said Gange. “Finally through LB I have been able to get help, and through the Foundation the roadblocks were removed." Gange is now a new mother, and says that she is now the happiest she’s been in her life. “School finally gave me that feeling of fulfillment I hadn’t had all my life.” 

Jim Harris, a non-destructive testing student at LBCC was a professional tree-climber for a number of years, but eventually realized he needed to switch careers to something less physically demanding. His resolve: go to college and get his degree. Affording college was a new demand he’d have to meet, but thankfully through the LBCC Foundation, he was able to not only get a scholarship, but also find a way to balance work and school. “Without the funds from my scholarship, I’d have to work every Saturday and Sunday on top of going to class four or five days a week and studying,” Harris reflected.

Hannah Briggs, a biology student at LBCC had her sights already set on her educational goals in high school, and resolved that getting her associate’s degree at LBCC would fast-track her progress towards a bachelor’s and then someday a master’s degree. “I realized what I wanted to do when my mom was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago,” Hannah said. “I realized I wanted to work in healthcare and be a rock for people receiving care. I wouldn’t be able to come here though if it weren’t for the people who provide scholarships.” This year, thanks to her hard work and the financial support she received, Hannah will graduate with both her associate’s and her master’s degrees at the same time. 

People might be surprised to learn how a relatively small gift can make a huge difference in the life of a student, allowing them to continue on their educational path. 

“LBCC’s mission is to empower its community members through education,” Jennifer Boehmer reflected. “When our neighbors succeed, our community is better and stronger. Linn and Benton counties count on LBCC to educate and train the next generation of technicians, first responders, auto mechanics, health care workers, small business owners, and much more.”

How the LBCC Foundation makes a difference

The Foundation is dedicated to supporting Linn-Benton Community College, and its mission doesn’t just affect students while they’re in school, but long after they graduate and the communities they serve.
“An affordable, high-quality education is key to a thriving community. LBCC serves as an educator of choice for our future workforce, and a pipeline supplier of trained, educated personnel for our local businesses,” said Boehmer. “As a Foundation, we are proud to be the organization that stands in the gap for our families, so that as many people as possible can access education.”

This academic year alone, the foundation has made hundreds of micro-gifts to students struggling with the costs of housing, gas, food, and medical bills.  The foundation has already awarded over $400,000 in scholarships to over 200 students so far, and is constantly looking for ways to expand our services to more students.

While the gala is over, it is never too late to join the  LBCC Foundation in supporting students. There are opportunities to give to general scholarships, emergency funds, targeted funds for veterans, music students, technology students, health care, and more. Those seeking to give before the end of the year can learn more at the LBCC Foundation’s website.

Those who missed the gala may be wondering: Where WAS that Maltese Roadrunner? You’ll have to watch the episodes, study the clues and then view the gala recap to find out!