Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Kristine Woodward, holding up number, was the successful bidder for the first item of the night, “Principal for the Day,” at the P.S. 41 auction. Woodward, who owns Woodward Gallery on Eldridge St., also contributed several artworks for the auction.

March auction madness descends again on P.S. 41

By Jill Stern

P.S. 41’s Annual Auction, held last week at the Puck Building for the third straight year, brought in over $150,000 for the school — surpassing all prior fundraising events. Revenues from this year’s auction, dubbed “Journey to the Orient,” account for more than half of the Parent Teacher Association’s yearly budget. The money will supplement what is provided by the Department of Education and will be spent on basics, such as copy machines and lunchroom aides, as well as on the enrichment programs that make the school sodesirable. (Kindergarten enrollment for this September reached an all-time high.)

The event consisted of a silent auction, during which participants bid on donated items displayed throughout the Grand Ballroom. Several local restaurants, including Do Sirak, Marumi, Republic and Bar Pitti, donated Asian-themed food and beverages. Divalicious Chocolate Bar provided the chocolate-dipping fountain. A live auction led by professional auctioneer Barry Cherwin ended the evening. A painting by Argentine-born artist Cohen Fuse, which was donated by Christine Woodward — P.S. 41 parent and owner of the Woodward Gallery — brought in the most cash. Other popular items for bid were paintings by the kindergarten students and getting to be “Principal for the Day.”

The P.T.A.’s board members have become fundraising experts, learning in the trenches and out of necessity. Years ago, fundraising was just an aspect of the P.T.A.’s functions; now it has become its entirety.

“I would say, 85 to 100 percent of the efforts go to fundraising. We pledge a certain amount of money to [Principal] Kelly Shannon and we have to make it happen,” said Mindy Garelick, P.S. 41 P.T.A. co-president.

Serious preparation begins months ahead of time, when students’ backpacks are stuffed with memos asking each family to solicit donations. Getting donations is sometimes an easy opportunity for overworked parents toget involved.

“Every year, I do whatever I can,” said Nancy Chin, who has two children at the school. “This year I have managed to solicit almost $6,000 worth of goods — mostly from very good friends. P.S. 41 has contributed so much to my children’s lives that this is the absolute least I can do.”

Chin’s sentiments seem to ripple through the school community. A record 1,000 items were donated to this year’s auction. A new incentive for seeking donations was given this year: pizza lunch with the principal for the class with the most donations.

Beth Wagner is still P.S. 41’s resident fundraising expert — though her throne will be up for grabs next year when her son moves on to middle school. For many years, Wagner has been the number one solicitor of donated goods. A professional salesperson, she has a natural ability to get people to say yes.

Explaining one of the tricks to her trade, she said, “Keep in contact with the companies that have given donations throughout the year, so that next year the process will be easier.”

Said Jill Tapia, P.S. 41 P.T.A. co-president, “Our auction is a great event, with an opportunity to get deals on terrific merchandise — all while helping a good cause.”

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