Seats sold out, said former MSEF president Lori Harch, despite the fact that only 37 tickets had been sold as of last Wednesday. MSEF president Kris Wolmar “conservatively” ballparked the evening’s revenues at $28,000.

The crowd was silent except for collective gasps and bursts of applause as Bob Manley and Stephen D. Erickson were deep in a bidding war Saturday evening at the Mount Shasta Education Foundation’s Gala.

Bids flew for a custom menu for 12, to be created by Cafe Maddelena Chef Brett LaMott and served at the Muse Family Retreat overlooking Lake Siskiyou. Bids opened at $500 but quickly escalated to $2,500. After that point, it was all Manley and Erickson.

The battle ended with Manley raising his hand and nodding to make a record-breaking $5,100 bid.

“I love (LaMott’s) food, and the setting is gorgeous,” said Manley, after he signed documents making his donation official. “But the real reason is, I care a lot about the kids.”

Manley, a former speech therapist at Mount Shasta Elementary, is one of the founders of Black Bear Diner.

“My parents came to Mount Shasta in the ’40s and they were both in education,” Manley said. He and his wife, Laurie, have two grandchildren who currently attend Mount Shasta schools: Abby at Mount Shasta High and Lizzy at Sisson.

Seats at the 17th annual Gala sold out, said former president Lori Harch, despite the fact that only 37 tickets had been sold as of last Wednesday. MSEF president Kris Wolmar “conservatively” ballparked the evening’s revenues at $28,000.

“Our take home will be slightly lower, but our expenses are very low because so much is based on volunteer work and donations,” Wolmar said. “I’m extremely happy with how it all turned out. It takes a lot of work on the part of all the volunteers, and a lot of generosity from the donors and bidders. But in the end it’s all worth it and inspiring to see the community come together for a great cause – it reminds me why I feel lucky to live in this amazing community.”

Since 1994, when MSEF was founded, the organization has raised and donated a total of $450,000 to Mount Shasta schools, Wolmar told the crowd Saturday evening.

Wolmar recognized Harch, and she was honored with a standing ovation. Wolmar said since she stepped down last year, four people split the work Harch had done, and one of those four is Harch herself.

To remind Gala-goers what they were supporting with their generous bids, the Mount Shasta High School Jazz Choir performed as they have every Gala with the exception of one year.

They sang “Sweet Music,” featuring Tommy Houston; “Fly Me to the Moon,” featuring Sean Hughes, “Slow Me Down,” featuring Kirstyn Teuscher and Maddie Green; and “Hallelujah I Just Love Him So,” featuring Gavin Miller on the guitar.

“Half of the things that work in my classroom are a direct result of MSEF,” said director Greg Eastman. He mentioned the keyboards, sound system, mixing boards, tuba, bassoon and microphones.

“Over the years, as our budgets get tighter, what MSEF does for us becomes even more important,” said Eastman. “I think I speak for Fred Wichmann at Sisson and all the teachers at Mount Shasta Elementary, Sisson, and the high school when I say you are making a huge difference in our lives.”

Bids were generous for a variety of dessert items, including an overflowing plate of assorted cookies donated by Janie Reed and a raspberry chocolate cake made by Michelle Stock.

As the jazz choir students filed from the Community Center after their performance, they happily accepted an item from Reed’s overflowing tray, which had been purchased by a table for $250.

Wolmar said to his knowledge, Manley’s $5,100 bid was a record for a single item sold at the Gala. Harch said it is double the highest bid of $2,500 for the dinner in the past.

“Cafe Maddelena’s dinner has historically done really well, and we were guessing that the combination with the Muse Family Retreat would make it even more enticing, but I think everybody in the room was blown away by how high the bidding went,” said Wolmar. “I’m sure the experience will be worth every penny to Mr. Manley, especially knowing that his money is going to help our schools.”

Other live auction items also netted serious cash, including a plush burgundy recliner from Ron’s Furniture; a ridealong with Mount Shasta Police Chief Parish Cross, season passes to Mt. Shasta Ski Park, Disneyland tickets and a three night stay in a Brookings, Ore. condo.

A 20 by 40 inch custom framed photograph signed by photographer Karrie Ann Snure and donated by Red Door Gallery, called “The Shack,” was sold at silent auction for a high bid of $700. That amount was matched by the Manleys for a total donation of $1,400.

“We all made it happen together, from the person making a small but thoughtful donation, to the folks working like crazy to wash dishes, to the people involved in live auction bidding wars,” Wolmar said.

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