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Celebrity Serve to benefit WEF

By Sherrie Norris (

Article Published: Mar. 25, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Celebrity Serve to benefit WEF

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman serves justice - and barbecue - at Bandana's Bar-B-Que & Grill during last year's Celebrity Serve fundraiser. File photo

The fifth annual Celebrity Serve fundraising event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 in Watauga County and promises to be a great learning experience for everyone involved.

Teachers, principals and support staff from Watauga County public schools will be learning to wait tables; proceeds from the event will help fund two major initiatives currently under way in the county schools and supported by the Watauga Education Foundation, the event's beneficiary.

Celebrity Serve is a hometown fundraiser that partners with local eateries and well-known "personalities" to support and help with unmet needs of local non-profit organizations.

It began initially as a way to help Watauga County Hospice and has raised more than $100,000 since its inception. Organizations, including Hospice, Make a Wish Foundation, High Country Soccer and the Hospitality House, have been on the winning end of the proceeds.

To date, 25 local restaurants have signed on to participate in this year's big event - the most ever since the fundraiser began.

Before last year's successful event was over, the Celebrity Serve board began accepting requests from area nonprofits for consideration as the 2010 beneficiary.

"It was not an easy decision to make because we had several well-deserving groups that could certainly make good use of the money," said Jack Pepper, chairman of the Celebrity Serve board. "But we chose Watauga County Education Foundation as recipient of this year's proceeds, knowing that many students will benefit from the money we raise."

Pepper, his wife, Lisa, and fellow community advocates Tim Baxter, Gwen Dingh, Mary Hall and Sherrie Norris established Celebrity Serve as a way to help the local Hospice agency after its annual telethon was discontinued.

"The success of our first attempt was astounding," Hall said, "so we decided the next year to spread the funds throughout the community as a way to help others."

Watauga Education Foundation could not be happier that its turn has arrived, executive director Melanie Bullard said.

"We are honored to be chosen the beneficiary - really, it is the children and students of Watauga County who will be the ultimate winners," Bullard said.

"We are hopeful that every community member who's ever benefited from Watauga County public schools will come out on April 20 and show their support for education. This is an incredible opportunity to partner with local restaurateurs and make a Tuesday anything but typical. It can be a day that Watauga County raises enough money to put books in the hands of its pre-school children and the world in the hands of its WCS students.

Jay Fenwick, WEF President, said that proceeds from Celebrity Serve will be used for the Foundation's two current (large) initiatives. One initiative is the Imagination Library, which places age-appropriate books into the hands of preschoolers every month from birth until kindergarten.

"We are so excited about this because lifelong success starts with reading," Fenwick said. "Too many children are not provided the opportunity to own a set of books, and by 'own' I mean so much more than just legally possessing. They become a part of the book and the book becomes a part of them."
The other initiative, Fenwick said, is the WEF's support of Watauga County Schools' Global Learning Community.

"(WCS superintendent Marty) Hemric and his team are bringing this sweeping educational transformation to our schools and community," Fenwick said. "Right now, teachers all over our county are being trained on how to creatively and effectively engage our students 'on their turf.' The students are 'plugged in and connected' all the time, except when they're in school. Controlling, guiding, empowering this access as a part of the educational environment is truly transformational.
"As for the foundation, this is a watershed event. We are so excited to be able to engage these two projects in such a substantial way and to have the opportunity to reach so many people to let them know about our foundation and its passions."

The Watauga Education Foundation makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for Watauga County families by funding projects that fall outside state and local education budgets. Since 1989, the foundation has awarded more than $1 million to enrich the educational experience in Watauga County Public Schools, its efforts positively influencing the lives of thousands of students in grades Pre K-12.

Watch for more details of Celebrity Serve 2010 in the Watauga Democrat and The Mountain Times.

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