EPHRATA — There’s a lot of love for the elementary school at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.
And you could tell by the sheer number of people who showed for Saturday night’s fundraising auction. From all across the county, folks descended upon the gymnasium last night to help keep the school open and flourishing.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser,” said Carrie Tatum, who chaired the auction committee this year.
“It helps support the school,” said Tatum, a part-time dentist and mother of two. “This is a very big deal, a big event.”
Tatum has one child in seventh grade who attended St. Rose, and another in the fourth grade there.
“I love this school,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place for children to learn and to grow academically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Last year, the auction raised $192,000 — $80,000 for scholarships to help cover the roughly $1,100-per-year preschool tuition and $4,900 per year for first through sixth grade — and the rest to directly help keep the school running.
“It’s included in our budget, so we couldn’t make budget without it,” said Stafanie Bafus, principal at St. Rose of Lima School. “A lot of kids at our school are low-income, and that’s not the norm for Catholic schools.”
This night — this auction — makes that possible, Bafus said.
The gymnasium was full of volunteers, including a few former students in Church confirmation class.
“I was a student volunteer last year,” said Jocelyn Eisen, who attends Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Moses Lake. “We grew up here, it’s part of our childhoods, and we just want to give back to it.”
All of the items up for bid were donated as well, including class art projects. Especially stunning was a colorful portrayal of St. Michael defeating the devil created by Becca Lundgren’s fourth- and fifth-graders.
Lundgren traced an image of St. Michael on a piece of plywood, and then her students cut out bits of color from magazines, glued them on, and when the project was done, covered it with a thick layer of shellac.
“I really like angel wings, that’s why I picked St. Michael,” she said. “I hope it goes for no less than $2,000. If it goes for $2,000 or more, we’ll make another one.”
And that’s not an unheard-of price for class projects up for auction here. Tatum said a Nativity set went for $4,500 last year.
St. Rose of Lima School educates roughly 100 students, small for a Catholic school, but the Bafus said Ephrata is a small community for this kind of school.
“We’re kind of a miracle that keeps going on and going on,” she said.
For 35 years, people across the Columbia Basin have been helping to keep St. Rose of Lima open and teaching.
“It’s the Holy Spirit and lots of prayer,” Bafus said. “This town, regardless of whether they are Catholic or not, has always been dedicated to making this school happen.”
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.