To the Editor:
In today's economic climate, some naysayers doubted this year's Strawberry Festival would bring in very much money. Proceeds would certainly fall far below last year's total.
As chairs, we decided that was okay and that we wouldn't focus on the money. Instead we would march on with our preparations for this popular annual event for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whatever could be raised would be helpful to the many mission projects we support to benefit children here, around our state and in other parts of the world. Our Publicity Committee headed by Sheila Dorst, Carol Lindenbaum and Jeanne Saeger hit the pavement running.
The day arrived, God provided abundant sunshine, tables were in place thanks to the back-breaking efforts of the fabulous set up crew, headed by Martin Lyons, Ray Smedley and Richard Klepser, and the people came.
Thanks to Bob Green and his staff at the Boca Grande Community Center, and to Isabelle Joiner and Melissa Steyer at the Crowninshield Community House, the perfect venue for our festival was in order. Thanks to the Art Alliance, tents popped up to provide shade. Thanks to Publix, our workers were fed. Thanks to Artie Brooks, a dumpster was supplied to collect the trash. Thanks to many area merchants our boutique headed by Nancy Lyons and Madelaine McCrady was brimming with desirable items. The tables in our bargain room, headed by Helen Kaiser, were overflowing thanks to scores of people who cleaned out their closets. Thanks to the generosity of many local artists, fishing guides, merchants and special friends our silent and live auction tables were displayed with dazzling deals. Our professional auctioneer, Ron Thompson, was poised to motivate the crowd to bid generously. Thanks to efforts of over one hundred volunteers, organized by Sue Maine and Bebe Wesselman, the United Methodist Women were ready for the 2009 Strawberry Festival to begin.
Children, young and old, enjoyed the delicious strawberry shortcake organized by Barbara Schoenfeld, Donna Harms and Jan Meyer. Children delighted in having their faces painted by our youth groups, The Godfollowers and the Boca Believers, directed by RuthAnn Spurgeon. Lunch was grilled by the men, headed by Pete Saeger and Bill Steinman, at tables decorated by Sara Moll, Community Outreach Chair. Homemade bakery goods were collected from numerous bakers by Jean Steinman and Ellie Durno. Handmade crafts, made by Pam Hannah and Marjorie Moore's Craft Committee were admired and snapped up.
One woman returned to the event for a third time, commenting, "I just can't stay away because everyone is so friendly and it feels so good just being here." Perhaps it was the Bible verse in a sea shell she received from Elle Lewis and her crew, or Ruth Paschall's coffee, enjoyed by those waiting in line and throughout the day.
At the end of the day, our volunteers were exhausted, but happy. Then an incredible thing happened. Our Treasurer, Blanche Johnson, counted the money and kept counting. and kept counting. The total stunned us. We who are so blessed on this island were able to raise even more money this year than last the good Lord's amazing grace blessed us all. Today our total is well over $75,000!
Thank you to everyone who helped make this year's Strawberry Festival the highlight of the season. Special thanks go to Gloria Mitchell and Sue Eddy, next year's Co-Chairmen, who worked nonstop behind the scenes. So many children will be better off as a result of the gifts we are able to give from the proceeds.
We eagerly anticipate another successful Strawberry Festival next year and urge you to note its date, Saturday March 6th, again, the first Saturday of March (when the strawberries are at their best.)
Candy Rost and Chrys Hyde, 2009 Co-Chairs