Durangoans turned out in all their 1920s-era finery to celebrate the Great Gatsby-themed 30th anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado on Saturday night.
It was truly one of the most beautifully attired crowds in this frequent partygoer’s memory. The beaded flapper dresses, the tiara headbands, the dapper gentlemen and all the accoutrements that made the 1920s so, well, roaring, were on full display.
The event was widely billed as “not an annual event,” so the 220 attendees knew they should expect something special, and they got it.
As they arrived at the tent on the back lawn of the Smiley Building, they were greeted with enormous white floral arrangements with golden accents set on pedestals. A glance further in showed fabric-covered couches, chairs and tables – also primarily in white and gold – where guests could lounge while enjoying their welcoming flute of champagne. Trees were decorated with fairy lights and strings of pearls.
April’s Garden knocked it out of the park on all the arrangements for the evening. The decorations on the tables were different on every table, with floral arrangements of all sizes staged on different levels, white, gold and purple, with strings of pearls, feathers, crystal-decorated wine glasses filled with purple foil-wrapped Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (one of the primary sponsors of the event along with Durango Motor Co.), and mirrors, of course, to reflect the beauty.
Mercury and Durango Party Rentals were the platinum- level sponsors.
Hot Tomatoes catered the dinner, starting with spanakopita and deviled eggs for appetizers, before guests sat down to a spring mix salad with strawberries, avocado, goat cheese, honey-roasted almonds and house-made balsamic vinaigrette. The buffet dinner included a tortellini salad with roasted salmon in a dill sauce; tomato and mozzarella dribbled with olive oil and fresh basil; marinated asparagus; roasted chicken breast in a tarragon-mushroom cream sauce; pork tenderloin with a honey-thyme glaze with apples and pears; and roasted red potatoes with herbs.
Nicole Rohn Desserts donated two luscious confections, a vanilla panna cotta with shortbread base and caramelized pears; and a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry coulis and Irish whiskey-whipped cream.
Star Liquors donated the potent potables, as “Jeopardy” describes them.
The silent auction presented some select items. (When’s the last time a crystal bowl from Tiffany’s was available in an auction here? This one was courtesy of Tony and Natalie Johnson.) Other items included a silver dollar-coin collection minted between 1878 and 1904 donated by The International Collector’s Association; four special bottles of wine from the private cellar of Wayne and Karen Barger; golf, special meals, facials and items for the home; and practical offerings such as 200 gallons of propane donated by AmeriGas, a personal trainer, and dentistry packages courtesy of Oak Family Dentistry or Dr. Michael Johnson, to name just a few.
This was Cherie Naffziger’s first outing chairing a major event, and she receives kudos all around. Her committee also included Cindy Cortese, Penny Crowell, Megan Sanders and Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Executive Director Tracy Cornutt.
Ryan Naffziger was drafted to serve as the master of ceremonies by you-know-who.
No 30th anniversary party would be complete without a look at what the organization has accomplished over those three decades.
The organization was founded by five people who saw young people in our community who would thrive with some extra adult attention. Steve Zeller, Joe Thompson, Bobbie Sue Steres, Rand Kennedy and Rich Yeager lucked out when Bill and Dottie Mashaw moved to Durango. Not only had he been involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters in Indiana, he had served on the national board. And he had a passion for helping kids.
Susan Rose served as the first executive director, and the first match was Kim Tosch and little sister Joella. Since then, 3,500 local children, children, who, for one reason or another – parents working two jobs, single-parent homes, being raised by a grandparent or other relative – benefitted from the fun, attention and care of an adult through the organization.
The mission statement says it all: “to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
That forever was clear when Savanna Cordova, a little sister all grown up, big sister Kate Halsband and first big, Marsha Coleman, shared memories of friendships that have endured even though Cordova is now an adult.
Putting the capper on the evening, Terry Gibbons, Bill and Dottie Mashaws’ daughter, imagined what her father, who died in 2009, would have to say at this 30th-anniversary celebration. “Well-done,” she said, adding that he might have apologized, at least a little, for his arm-twisting to get it going.
The Daniels Fund in Denver awarded a matching grant to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado for $15,000. If they raised $15,000 at the event, they got the grant. Once that was announced, a paddle-board-raising-donating frenzy ensued. The organization has no greater supporters than Mike and Sandy Bruce, who each pledged $2,500. (That’s on top of other funds donated during the year.)
The evening ended with partygoers rocking out on the dance floor to Ralph Dinosaur.
Between the grant, the silent auction, the ticket sales and the paddle-board portion of the evening, Cornutt said the evening probably brought in about $50,000. That money will be put to good use. It costs $1,200 per match per year to provide the background checks, support, monitoring and activities that make a match a success.
BBBS currently has 66 adult matches, 23 in its high school bigs and littles program and 40 matches in the Study Buddy one-hour-a-week school-tutoring program. That number will go up, as they are just now enrolling for this school year, and the need for volunteers will go up as well.
If you’ve thought about volunteering your time, there are currently 28 young people waiting for a match, with about 15 adults who have not yet been matched. Call 247-3720 to learn more.
And if you missed the festivities but want to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado in its so-important work, mail your tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 2154, Durango, CO 81302.
Don’t just take my word for it. Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar USA, ranks Big Brothers Big Sisters No. 1 among nonprofits in helping at-risk youth.
Bundling up for their birthdays are Kathryn Eppich, Hope Hamilton, Tonya Gander Ensign, Patricia Mertens and Mary (Crow) Dunlap.
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