More than 150 GFWC Women’s League of Van Buren members and supporters came together Tuesday (March 5) evening for the organization’s annual “Big Bucks” fundraiser. Hosted at the Van Buren Public Library, the lively evening included dinner, an auction and a surprise twist in the grand prize finale drawing.
Tickets for “Big Bucks” were $100 and included dinner for two and the chance to win the $5,000 cash giveaway. In a sort of reverse bingo, numbers were drawn one by one, eliminating ticket holders with each name read. Random numbers were selected to win smaller $50 and $100 prizes.
Silent auction items also lined the walls, with dozens of gift baskets, home décor and sports memorabilia up for bid.
Following dinner and the close of the auction, the remaining 10 tickets were drawn. Vickie Davis, second runner-up, was awarded $100. Connie Martin and Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman held the final two tickets. As the announcer read Martin’s number as the runner-up, the crowd erupted. Freeman, who also won the grand prize in 2010, took the microphone and announced that, as he had done before, he would donate all of his winnings back to the club.
“We called a special council meeting earlier this evening,” joked Freeman. “I said that if I were to win again, I would gladly give the money back over to Women’s League.”
The crowd gave Freeman a standing ovation in honor of his generosity.
“We are so grateful to Mayor Freeman and his wife Terri for this incredible gift,” said Carolyn Loyd, Women’s League President. “This is a huge blessing to our club and to the projects and organizations that we support.”
The annual dinner serves as the league’s biggest fundraiser with proceeds benefitting the group’s annual Community Improvement Contest Project. Every two years, members select a project that “improves the life in and around the community while enhancing membership opportunities, developing leadership skills and crating a public awareness of GFWC.”
“Our members are committed to serving the community and to making Van Buren a better place for all,” said Loyd. “We are proud of the projects we have sponsored over the years and of our reputation as a ‘go-to group’ when someone needs volunteers.”
In addition to its CIC project, the club will use the funds to sponsor the SMART Girls summer program at the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren. SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) encourages healthy attitudes and lifestyles among adolescent girls and promotes high self-esteem.