Jan. 26, 2005 - The Amphi Foundation hopes school district supporters will be putting on the Ritz - and pulling out their wallets - for its upcoming gala.

The event - first held last year in honor of the district's 110th anniversary - will have more of an eye to money than the previous gala.

"Last year they really didn't do it as a fundraiser, they did it as public relations and it ended up raising $13,000," said Theresa Venet Grant, acting executive director of the Amphi Foundation. "So they decided this year, 'Let's revisit that.'"

It is hard to predict how much money the event will bring in, said Roseanne Lopez, gala chair and principal of Walker Elementary School, but she hopes to fill 20 tables with 10 guests each. The 2004 event had 14 tables.

Lopez said the Hilton has been very accommodating in working with the district, charging just $1 more per person this year than last year and offering a large ballroom that can seat up to 400.

If the event fulfills Lopez's goal of 20 tables, and assuming the same profit rate as in 2004, the foundation would earn $18,400 this year.

"You can't set goals that are unrealistic. (Last year) we didn't know what was realistic and maybe we still don't," Lopez said. "I feel you have to do something for about three years to know what to expect."

She said she hopes the nature of the event - location, food, music, dancing, silent auction, awards ceremony - will offer the right mix of dressiness and affordability to bring in participants, directly resulting in money for the foundation.

"We try to keep this so that people could actually do it. But we know that a lot of budgets do not allow for $100 tickets, we know that," she said. "But at the same time, some people are putting out $250, $350 to go to some of these other events, so we're hoping that they'll throw some our way."

"We're really looking for the community to come out and support us," she continued, including business leaders, parents, district employees and staff. "What we do, what we can do for teachers and for the district and for the children in it … is directly dependent on participation and how much money we get."

And while the event was created to be upscale and classy, Lopez said the foundation does its best to make as much and spend as little as possible, which means more money will go into the foundation and eventually the district.

"We keep the ancillary kinds of expenses down, like decorations and all that," she said. "The purpose of this is to help the foundation, not to buy flowers."

Besides ticket sales, the foundation aims to bring in funds from corporate sponsors and a silent auction.

EVENING EVENTS: The silent auction begins as the doors open at 6 p.m., with entertainment by a jazz band composed of Pima Community College instructors.

Among the items up for bid are nearly 20 themed baskets donated by schools and departments in the Amphitheater district. Jewelry, golf, pottery, art and clothing also will be on the auction block; the foundation still is accepting silent auction donations.

After the auction comes dinner, which will include salad; a beef, salmon or vegetarian entrée; wine and dessert. A cash bar will be open throughout the evening.

After the foundation recognizes its top gala sponsors, members will unveil a new scholarship and its three winners.

The scholarship, which has yet to be named, will be awarded to three students - one from each of Amphitheater Public Schools' three high schools - who will receive a minimum of $500.

"It is specifically for high school seniors who have declared that they intend to pursue becoming educators," Venet Grant said.

The scholarship committee has yet to meet and decide the parameters for entrants, Lopez said.

The evening ends with dancing, and in 2004, the dance floor was filled until the doors closed at midnight.

"There's not too much talk," Lopez said. "It's more fun."


What: Amphitheater Foundation Gala

When: 6 p.m. to midnight Feb. 12

Where: Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Road

Cost: Individual: $110 ($60 tax deductible), Table of 10: $1,000 ($50 tax deductible from each ticket)

Info: Phone 696-5147, Fax 696-5038. For sponsorship opportunities, call Roseanne Lopez at 696-6517


Now is the time for Amphi Foundation.

Time for building its board, time for reevaluating its priorities, time for looking at the needs of the district it serves.

"It really is a time of transition, which means it's a very exciting time because they're really looking at where to go from here," said Theresa Venet Grant, acting executive director of the Amphi Foundation.

Foundation vice president Roseanne Lopez said the only direction to go is up. "We need to be bigger because now we are 50th in the states in public education," she said. "That's why we're trying to build, because we've got to get momentum. And the other foundations around the city, they're getting a whole lot more money than we are."

She said the foundation, which has been in existence for about 20 years, has been largely inactive until recently.

Venet Grant explained how foundation business primarily had been handled by Amphitheater Public Schools' public relations staff member.

"But they have not had a public relations person for four or five years," she said. "And the foundation doesn't really have the funds to pay a full-time staff person, and finding someone that can function as an executive director at a clerical salary is a challenge."

Part of the process of rebuilding the foundation is rebuilding its bank account, a purpose the foundation greatly helped with its first gala in 2004.

That means all of the money brought in last year was not necessarily given out.

"We want some of that money to grow, it isn't just automatically disseminated," Venet Grant said.

Money to the foundation comes in the form of participation in foundation-run events, which take place three times a year.

One is the gala, which is set for Feb. 12 at the Hilton Tucson's El Conquistador golf and tennis resort. The gala essentially has taken the place of an annual golf tournament.

The foundation also sponsors a bowl-a-thon and a run, both of which are more accessible to people who might not be able to afford the gala, including teachers, district employees and students.

A fourth option for fundraising is United Way, which recently has added Amphi Foundation to its list of beneficiaries.

This money all goes into the foundation's coffers, which, at the end of fiscal year 2003, amounted to $140,145 in assets. The foundation has committed to distributing $10,000 by the end of this school year.

But Venet Grant stresses "it isn't just a matter of how much money we give away. One of the most important roles that we fill is brokering services at no cost for our kids. You can't just look at the profit and loss and make a value judgment about an organization of this nature. You have to look at really what is being provided through their operations in the community."

For the Amphi Foundation, those services include running a clothing bank that serves hundreds of families each school year, providing emergency medical and dental services, paying sports participation fees, giving scholarships to future teachers, and providing teaching tools.

"Northwest Medical Center contributes to (the emergency medical) program up to $10,000 a year in services," Venet Grant explained. Because Amphi Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and not a part of the school district, it can receive this philanthropy. The same might not be true for the district itself, she said.

"You get into all kinds of challenges because they're not a 501(c)(3), they're a government agency," Venet Grant said. "So then you have hospitals donating services to government agencies and that's a problem."

MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: The foundation's medical fund is budgeted for $10,000 a year to be spent on students whose families are not insured or cannot afford a co-pay or medicine. The program is administered through school health aides, who can authorize payments from the fund.

CLOTHING BANK: The value of this foundation-run clothing and personal item bank is exponentially increased by the volunteers who staff it, according Venet Grant.

"One of the best things about the foundation is its capacity to turn volunteer hours into programs and services in our school population," she said.

The clothing bank in particular has the benefit of its manager, Johnnie Thews.

"Johnnie Thews can make a steak dinner out of raw pasta," Venet Grant said. "She doesn't have a whole lot to work with over there and she really runs a fabulous program. I think last year they served something like 360 families."

Those families are invited to come to the bank four times each year, and each family member, not just the children, can pick out four sets of clothing.

The bank also is aided by an annual new sock and underwear drive.

TEACHER TOOLS: The grants to teachers for tools and training fills a void that teachers otherwise would be paying for themselves or doing without, Venet Grant said.

Teachers can apply for foundation funds to pay for tools that will be used in their classrooms - be it coordination stacking cups popular in some physical education classes or grade-appropriate reading software. Teachers also can apply for money to be used in training, which often is granted under the stipulation that the teacher share the new techniques with others when they return.

SCHOLARSHIP: New this year and to be announced at the Feb. 12 gala, the foundation will give money to three high school seniors intending to pursue education as a career. The scholarships, each worth at least $500, will be awarded to one student each at Amphitheater, Canyon del Oro and Ironwood Ridge high schools.

SPORTS SUPPORT: A $15,000 grant from the Tucson Conquistadors covers fee waivers for students who cannot afford to participate in extracurricular sports.

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