Thursday, September 19, 2013
Opponents of the American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) proposal to build a 345-kilovolt (kV) power line through the heart of the Ozarks turned out in droves for a Save the Ozarks (STO) fundraiser at Caribé Restauranté y Cantina Sunday. The fundraiser surpassed all expectations in turnout and the amount of money raised – which could be a record for a Eureka Springs benefit.
“We are amazed by our community's commitment and generosity,” STO Director Pat Costner said. “The Caribe benefit in combination with two anonymous matching fund offers of $10,000 brought in $55,000 for STO. With those added funds, we’re within reach of covering all of our costs through to the end of the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) proceedings.”
STO is a non-profit group formed by landowners, business owners and others who oppose AEP/SWEPCO’s proposal that would clear a 150-ft. wide path about 50 miles long for poles 150 ft. tall – three times the height of normal power poles. STO has retained a legal team including two attorneys and two paralegals to represent them before the APSC and hired experts in three areas: The lack of need for the project; the project’s negative impacts on the karst terrain of the Ozarks; and the visual blight that would result.
More than 300 people attended the benefit and even though there is a large parking lot at Caribe, many had to park off site just to get into the benefit that ran from 2:30 – 11 p.m.
Doug Stowe, a member of the STO board of directors, said, “I think they could have taken it as a warning. I wish the SWEPCO attorney had been there to see our community’s resolve. If they saw how strongly this community stands in support of the environmental beauty and sanctity of this place, they would have withdrawn their application.”
Stowe wasn’t surprised that there was a huge crowd because of the ton of donations that poured in for the silent and live auctions. He said the generosity of the arts and business community here is something every community in America could admire.
“It was staggering,” Stowe said. “I don’t think anybody could have witnessed this event without having been emotionally impressed. It was a benefit unlike any that has ever taken place in Eureka Springs before, and we are a community that has always given a strong showing for benefits. Everything about this was over the top.”
Sandy Martin, a volunteer with STO and Chair of the Eureka Springs Art Council, said the generosity and unity of the Northwest Arkansas community has never shone as brightly as it did at Sunday’s STO fundraiser.
“Remember when we came together for ‘The Community of Peace’?” Martin asked. “Well, we are now forever known as ‘The Community of Action’. Artists and businesses have come through again in staggering numbers to do the right thing. And, typical of Eureka Springs, it’s not just the right thing for our community; it’s the right thing to do for everyone. I’m so proud to be part of this compassionate and brilliant community.”
Volunteers led by Penny Walker, Ilene Powell, KJ Zumwalt, and Teresa DeVito spent seven weeks organizing and collecting more than 300 items – artwork, crafted items and other goods and services – that were donated for the auction.
“The event exceeded all expectations,” said Powell. “I’m humbled and overwhelmed by the support of STO’s efforts from this united community. Together we can take ‘another pole down’ before it is built. Eureka Springs is lucky to have KJ Zumwalt and Penny Walker, who take on so many causes and put on benefits beyond anyone’s imagination. As KJ said, Team Eureka made this happen. Everyone who donated, bid and volunteered should be proud.”
On Sunday morning, a crew of 25 volunteers arrived at 11 a.m. to set up the auction. Starting at 2:30 pm, volunteers opened the doors, collected $10 cover donations and handed out numbered paddles to the 297 people waiting to bid.
Outside, volunteers sold STO t-shirts and buttons and collected more than $5,000 in cash donations. Volunteers for these activities included Sarai Aleshire, Clover, Jean Elderwind, Sara Harrison, Katrina Humphries, Isis, Sandy Martin, Phyllis Moraga, Phyllis Poe, Glenda Satterfield, Greg Schneider, Faith Shah, Michael Shah, Lucy Stowe and Lana Walker.
Maureen Alexander sang in the afternoon, and auctioneers Beau Satori and Carly James worked at drawing higher bids for each item, pointing out the unique qualities of each item and offering anecdotes about the donors. Julie Kahn Valentine, John Rankine, Sarah Moore and others carried items at bid through the crowd. Satori drew laughs and higher bids by describing bids in terms of “another pole down.”
Items sold during the live auction brought between $300 and $600 each. The highest bid for a single item was $2,600 for an at-home dinner for eight personally catered by Case Dighero, director of Culinary Services for Crystal Bridges Museum, and Dacre Whitaker, also with Crystal Bridges. Caribé and Team Caribé contributed an additional $1,200 from their donated food sales and tips.
Dancing and music completed the evening with entertainment by Wolf Grulkey and Gary C. Albritton, Leroy Gorrell, Ron Sumner and Steve Bush. The music continued until doors closed at 11 p.m.
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