First-of-its kind virtual gala helps LBCC spread the light

As the days grew shorter in a city already darkened by a worldwide pandemic, more than 100 people gathered virtually to help Linn-Benton Community College spread some mid-valley light.

The Nov. 19 event, “Community Rays,” marked the first time the LBCC Foundation has held a gala by remote. The event, a fundraiser and auction, took the place of the foundation’s usual in-person gathering and was held via Zoom to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.

Participants raised $37,000 that night and purchased enough items through the online auction in the following days to bring the grand total to $50,000.

The money will be used for programs to support students through scholarships, emergency funds, academic programs and other initiatives that support LBCC’s mission.

“In the midst of a worldwide pandemic and wildfires in our own backyard, our community has endured unprecedented fear and uncertainty. For too many people, the vision of success for themselves and for their families has just grown dimmer,” said Jennifer Boehmer, executive director of Institutional Advancement and the LBCC Foundation.

“‘Community Rays’ is about inviting people to cut through the darkness and shine a ray of hope by giving generously to the LBCC Foundation.”

Guests who viewed the gala found a variety of ways to shine that hope. Dan Segel, owner of the Corvallis Knights, purchased a named scholarship and was inspired to start a second one in honor of LBCC athletics. In memory of their parents and grandparents, President Lisa Avery and her wife, Allison Blizzard, matched five gifts that came in at the $1,000 mark and plan to do more on Give Day in the spring. Sweet Home residents Jo Ann and Tim McQueary generously contributed $9,000 to push the Foundation’s total to the top.

College departments offered creative gifts to help the auction along. The agriculture department provided a trail ride for the auction and the music department will commission its choir to sing a custom performance. Welding students will design custom fire pits for winning bidders.

The foundation is dedicated to supporting Linn-Benton Community College, but its programs have benefits that ripple far beyond the student population, college officials said. 

Businesses throughout Linn and Benton counties employ people who got their start at the college or returned there for extra training and support, Boehmer said. An affordable, high-quality education is key to a thriving community because it keeps people employed and businesses running. 
This academic year alone, the foundation has bought laptops, helped pay for textbooks and web-based math tutoring, given out more than $144,000 in scholarships to cover tuition and paid internet bills to keep students connected to their online classes.

The foundation also made micro-gifts to help students struggling to cover the cost of housing, gas, food and medical bills.

“We’ve helped a number of students in this situation who were couch surfing or living in their cars,” Boehmer said. 

“For CTE and Healthcare students still needing to engage in in-person learning, travel is still necessary. With tje loss of part-time jobs due to COVID, many just can’t afford gas to get to class,” she went on. “We have students who are consistently food-insecure. Many of our students are just one sudden accident away from not being able to continue. A small gift gets students over the micro-barriers that could knock them off course.”

It’s not too late for others in the area to join the foundation in spreading some holiday light, Boehmer said. Opportunities for support include general scholarships; emergency funds; and/or targeted assistance for veterans, music students, technology students, health care and more. End-of-year gifts can be directed to linnbenton.edu/give.

“LBCC’s mission to empower people to succeed - including health care workers, educators, small business owners and first responders - is more critical than ever. Our faculty and staff have responded to these times with incredible conviction and creativity to keep people progressing toward their degrees and better lives,” she said. “A ray of light has a starting point but it doesn’t have an ending point,” she said. “You can be that starting point and your gift will go on to warm the whole community.”
 

©