Monday, March 20, 2023


Staff Writer | May 12, 2022 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — It was an especially celebratory evening Saturday at Big Bend Community College, as Cellarbration! For Education returned in person after two years as a virtual event.

This is the 21st year for the annual fundraiser banquet and auction, which raises money for scholarships given by the Big Bend Community College Foundation to BBCC students. A total of about $168,000 was raised through the event, according to BBCC spokesperson Tiffany Fondren.

“My husband and I have been to all 21,” said BBCC Foundation board member Vickey Melcher. “Both of our children attended BBCC. I have been a board member for many years and have enjoyed it very much. It is important to me that all students receive an appropriate education based on their needs and goals.”

Fellow board member Juanita Richards agreed.

“It’s amazing to be out here and be able to raise money for students at the college,” she said.

The evening began with a silent auction, offering 93 lots including home and garden services, hobby kits for bakers, grillers, artists and young hunters, various food and drink baskets and a wooden rocking horse made from wine stays by local rodeo legend Wade Leslie. Along with the auction were appetizers and the wines for which the event is named, poured by volunteers. The wines included selections from four local wineries, plus a sparkling white from Logroño in northern Spain.

Dinner was provided by Michael’s on the Lake and featured prime rib and cedar salmon topped with ceviche, accompanied by roasted potatoes and veggies. Dessert was a tall slab of cheesecake topped with strawberries.

The foundation’s executive director LeAnne Parton spoke first, thanking the people who had made the banquet possible. Parton wheeled herself to the microphone on a scooter, having broken her leg a week and a half earlier, she explained.

Big Bend CC President Sara Thompson Tweedy spoke next and extolled the value of a community college education.

“This is deeply personal for me,” she said. “I am not a community college graduate. But both of my parents grew up in inter-generational rural poverty. My father went to Danville Technical Institute in Virginia, and my mother went to a nursing school, the precursor to the community college nursing programs that we know today. And it was because of those experiences that they were able to lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class, and all four of their daughters. Every single one of us has some education beyond high school to do what we wanted to do with our gifts and skills and abilities. So I want to want you to think about the possibilities that become opportunities for people you may not even know, that you may not ever meet.”

The evening’s last speaker was BBCC alumna Susanne White. As a student, she was a beneficiary of the scholarships offered by the Big Bend Community College Foundation, and as a single mother of two children, it made all the difference in enabling her to succeed, she said.

“My first quarter I juggled being a mother, and school and working. It almost broke me,” White said. “I could see it was also affecting my kids and they were struggling. Reprioritizing was a must to find balance. Receiving grants and scholarships then allowed me to hold their hands, the hands of my little boys, and graduate with highest honors and obtain an associate's degree, while also obtaining the courage and the strength and the confidence I needed in myself.”

As plates were being cleared away, Thompson Tweedy and auctioneer Jacob Barth, also a foundation board member, auctioned off six desserts made by local restaurants and bakeries. Then Barth took over the microphone in earnest for the live auction, delivering his well-known rapid-fire patter as he auctioned off 18 packages including catered dinners, getaways and more. Actually, Barth auctioned off 17 of the lots, as one was claimed by an entrant in the “wine wall” raffle. A bottle of wine purchased for $100 included a cork to be entered in a drawing for the option to snatch one of the live auction items away before the auction began. The winner selected a week-long getaway in Hawaii.

“I couldn't have made it without the scholarships that I received,” said White. “That helped my family still be a family, and helped my kids still have a mother. It built my confidence. What an honor to have been chosen, to have been handpicked. To feel worthy, to see that my worth is shown to others. And that my story has been impactful. Mostly, receiving scholarships has helped me to keep moving towards my dream.”

Joel Martin can be reached via email at



From left, Cheri Smith, Jack McLauchlan and Ed Smith check out the silent auction offerings at Cellarbration! For Education this past Saturday evening.



Attendees fill their plates at Cellarbration! For Education last Saturday. The fundraiser banquet featured salmon and prime rib catered by Michael’s On The Lake.



BBCC alumna Susanne White talks about the help she received from the Big Bend Community College Foundation in getting her associate’s degree. Without the foundation’s scholarships, she said, she could never have made it as far as she has.



Auctioneer Jacob Barth sells items at Cellarbration! For Education Saturday evening with a machine-gun-like patter. The fundraiser at Big Bend Community College brought in about $168,000 for student scholarships.

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