With over 500 people in attendance, Irving Cares held its 27th annual fundraising gala, The Great Harvest, as the city’s biggest birthday bash took over the Irving Convention Center on Friday, Sept. 22.
“We have a gala every year and we just turned 60 this year,” said chief executive officer for Irving Cares Teddie Story. “We decided to turn this one into a really fun festive birthday party where people could come and celebrate 60 years of service to the Irving community. When you think of harvest, you think of bringing in resources and gathering things you need, and we use those things we gather to help others.”
Irving Cares served almost 11,000 families last year with food, rent, utilities, and jobs. The fundraising event benefits Irving Cares, so they can continue helping Irving families. Their goal this year was to raise $290,000 from the event, including both the silent and live auctions.
“The main purpose of this event is to raise money to run the programs we offer,” Story said. “We spend almost $2 million a year, but we’re able to demonstrate that people get jobs, people are not evicted, and people have their utilities still connected.”
During the event, attendees heard a story from one of the many people who received assistance from Irving Cares. Through a video presentation, Pat Andris shared her story of moving from working a seven-day a week dead end job with zero benefits to now working as a property adjuster making $91,000 a year thanks to Irving Cares’ Employment Services Program. Andris could not attend the celebration, because she is currently in Houston assisting those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Newly elected board member for Irving Cares Landa Parker was moved by Andris’ story.
“It brings me to tears,” Parker said. “It’s so much what I’m passionate about, and Irving Cares does an incredible job reaching the community and really making a difference in everyday lives.”
One of the highlights of the night was the start of the live auction which began with a game called, Silver Ticket. The goal of the game is to find the silver ticket which gives the lucky winner a choice of any item from the live auction before it begins. In previous years, the game was limited to only 99 people on a first come, first served basis with the winner getting their choice of any live auction item and the rest leaving home with just a novelty ring. This year, the game was made available to anyone who wanted to participate, and everyone went home with something. For $60, attendees had the opportunity to purchase a birthday present that was used as a table centerpiece. One centerpiece contained the silver ticket.
“This year, since we decorated with birthday presents, we decided to put something in them so everybody gets something. It’s a lot of fun, and again it goes to support Irving Cares,” said development director for Irving Cares, Heather Newell. “The sale of one box feeds six families for a week. Ten boxes can help someone find a job and have them be self-sufficient and not even need our services anymore.”
Guests also signed a birthday banner on their way out, thanking Irving Cares for their years of service and wishing them many more.
“We really appreciate the support of the community,” Newell said. “We would not have made it through 60 years without the wonderful spirit and heart in this community, and hope we’re here for another 60 years.”