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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Behind scenes, fund-raisers inject vitality into economy

You could call me a glass craftsman. Or, perhaps, apprentice would be more accurate.

I am helping to make a glass sculpture - a piece of artwork that will be auctioned off at a charity fund-raiser.

And I am convinced that fund-raisers are good for the economy, not because of the actual money raised but because of the amount of economic activity that the effort generates.

Bernie Andrews, of Andrews' Art Glass Art in East Toledo, takes a time out with his sculpture. Bernie Andrews, of Andrews' Art Glass Art in East Toledo, takes a time out with his sculpture.
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There are dozens of galas in this area that collectively raise millions of dollars for charities, the symphony, the opera, hospitals, schools, and numerous other organizations.

Some of the black-tie affairs draw hundreds of paying guests (tickets can run from under $100 to several hundred dollars), and some of them annually produce net proceeds of more than $100,000.

And each one becomes an economic driver, causing demand for many thousands of dollars' worth of food, flowers, decorations, entertainment, hall rental (or sometimes tent rental), and, of course, the time of countless behind-the-scenes volunteers, such as myself.

But that's just the start of it. Altogether, thousands of women spend $15 to $40 to get their nails done, perhaps $50 more for a new hairdo, and possibly $200 or more for a gown - at the upper end of the extreme, name your designer, name the price.

It's much simpler for the men: perhaps a new tuxedo every couple of years, or, in some cases, rental for, say, $100.

In the workshop, temporary apprentice Homer Brickey polishes a sheet of glass to be added to the growing cube. In the workshop, temporary apprentice Homer Brickey polishes a sheet of glass to be added to the growing cube.
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In any case, there are more costs to a fund-raiser than most guests realize. In some cases, they could run several times the net proceeds.

(Besides the galas, another popular type of fund-raiser is a "celebrity waiter" event. When you see an executive who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, or maybe even millions, delivering trays of food, you have to think it would be easier just to whip out a checkbook.

(But that wouldn't help as much as the physical presence of the "waiter.")

In my particular case, truth be told, the artwork was created by Bernie Andrews, owner of Andrews' Art Glass on Front Street in East Toledo. Mr. Andrews spent many hours making patterns and jigs, and the better part of a day cutting 48 pieces of glass that will give the illusion of a sphere within a cube.

I have spent parts of two days cleaning the glass pieces and an entire vacation day bonding them into the cube. And we're not done yet. There's more work to come on a stand for the sculpture that will be auctioned off at the American Diabetes Association gala this month.

So far, all I have invested is time. But time, as they say, is money. Of course, I will also need a tuxedo: No "artiste" would present his masterpiece looking like a bum. But rental will suffice for me, as one of these black-tie affairs every few years is plenty.

It would probably be more efficient for all of us to simply give more money directly to charities and other worthy causes. But where would the fun be? And what would happen to the economy?

Homer Brickey is The Blade's senior business writer.

Contact him at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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