Umpqua Community College Foundation’s annual Legacy Ball invites guest to make dreams come true

Published by Rachel Arceo on

Photos by Mason Ramirez and Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

Douglas County donors danced in resplendent finery at the Legacy Ball’s “Making Dreams Come True” fundraiser, raising nearly $230,000 at Seven Feathers Casino on Friday, Nov. 4. After two years of hiatus including a temporary move to a virtual event, the UCC Foundation held its sixth annual themed Legacy Ball in person, for the first time since the pandemic. The top donations of the evening came from Aden & Meredith Bliss, Clint & Carol Newell, the Josh Bidwell Foundation, Jim & Rachel Pokrandt, and the Briggs Loosley Foundation.

What is the Legacy Ball? 

The Legacy Ball is the chief Foundation fundraising event of the year. It is a black-tie event, involving cocktails, dinner, celebration, dancing and hours of fundraising activities with funds going to the UCC Foundation to put towards the areas of greatest need; often this correlates to scholarships awarded from the Foundation.  

“It originated as a way to honor all the heroes from the 2015 shooting and to raise funds to create endowed scholarships in memory of all those who lost their lives,” said Foundation Operations Manager Ellen Brown. “It has now become our largest annual fundraiser for the UCC Foundation.” 

Success with friend-raising and fundraising 

UCC Foundation CEO, Jessica Paugh and UCC President Rachel Pokrandt greeted guests during cocktail hour.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“Guests seem to be excited to dress up and attend the event, even more than in the past.  I think, for many, this may have been their first large gathering since COVID,” said Brown who started working for the Foundation since 2009 and was involved in the Legacy Ball’s inception. 

Every year many notable Douglas County influencers are invited to attend this ball; this year included UCC alumni and congressman hopeful Alek Skarlatos. Although some attendees and donors are UCC alumni, many guest were invited by other influential friends, as a reason to dress-up, have fun and help the community by way of supporting continued education.  

Several well-dressed attendees admitted to attending more for the fun than prior UCC connections. “I honestly came to dress up and have fun with my friends,” said first-time-attendee and financial advisor Amy Palm. 

The value of a live event 

UCC Foundation President, Derek Simmons smiled frequently as he emceed the event.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Last year, as a result of a COVID-19 spike in Douglas County, the foundation decided to make the prudent, but difficult decision to host the Legacy Ball virtually, encouraging similar levels of participation from home: black-tie wardrobe, cocktails and donations.  Last year’s virtual event raised $82,573, which is a third of this year’s live event earnings. 

UCC President Rachel Prokrandt, dressed in an emerald sequined gown, explained the importance of these connections made at the Legacy Ball while she beamed at the celebration.  “This is about recognizing the good work of the Foundation; it’s also about ‘friend-raising’ and fundraising to support student success,” Pokrandt said. 

Pokrandt suspected the participation was lower previously as many folks were tired of Zoom events, “We just didn’t have the same engagement.” 

Legacy Ball attendee holds their registered number during the package auction portion of the evening.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

This sentiment was echoed by others. Elin Miller, former chair on UCC’s board of education and now on the Foundation board of directors laughed as she explained the aversion to virtual events, “Some of us are technologically challenged.” 

Putting the fun in fundraising 

Beginning with a cocktail hour at 5:30, a steady flow of glamorously dressed attendees could be seen streaming to the event’s pavilion at Seven Feathers Casino to check in for this novel event.  UCC staff and student volunteers registered and welcomed guests entering the pavilion, decorated by Andrew Calvert of the Perfect Occasion, in the spirit of a Midsummer’s Night Dream, complete with costumed performers dressed as forest sprites. 

Legacy Ball attendee, Tawny Pendleton, smiles as she cradles the golden labradoodle puppy, her and her partner Matt Insecore won during the auction.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Raffle tickets for auction credits were sold to guests preceding the dinner. After cocktails and a gourmet dinner, UCC Foundation President and Legacy Ball emcee, Derek Simmons stepped up to the podium to welcome guests, lay out the plans for the evening and introduce key speakers of Foundation CEO, Jessica Paugh, and UCC President Rachel Pokrandt.  

After welcomes and an update on Foundation goals and accomplishments from Paugh and Pokrandt, Simmons introduced Mike Jardine as the auctioneer of the evening.  Jardine quickly put the fundraising into fast action by beginning the live auction portion of the evening.  Packages auctioned included wine tasting excursions, a private flight over the ocean, a dinner on the Umpqua river and a four-week-old golden labradoodle puppy. 

Making dreams come true 

After the fast-paced live auction, guests were graced with a special performance by Savaun Deng and Caleb Jones of the Umpqua Singers followed by a short video testimonial from former student and present adult basic skills associate professor, Justina Martin. Martin shared her story of struggle from a young mother high school dropout to a high school and college graduate and, now, professor to the very program that enabled her to change her circumstances. 

UCC Foundation Director of Operations, Ellen Brown is described as_ the woman behind the curtain_ in the program because of her many hours of work for the Legacy Ball.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“I believe I was invited to speak because the theme was ‘Making Dreams Come True,’ and Jessica, the foundation director, had heard my story and saw how my journey came full circle.” 

After the student testimonial, President Pokrandt took the podium once more for the special appeal of the evening.  Pokrandt laid out the plan for the Career Academy Program, which partners with the Douglas County School District to provide the opportunity for job-ready credentials before graduating high school.  The program’s inaugural year introduces automotive, medical technician and theatre credentials; this program is offered to local high school students on Fridays at UCC.  

Pokrandt explained the importance of the new program in an email: “We know that in this modern economy a person is highly unlikely to make enough money to support a family, unless they have some form of higher education or skilled trade. So, this year we launched the Friday Career Academy Program. 

“This program takes youth who otherwise may never consider themselves college material and trains them for careers in fields that are needed right here in Douglas County, at no cost to the student. We transport them to campus, we feed them, we ensure they have all of the materials and books that they need and put them on a path to success with college courses that are paid for by their school district as dual credit,” said Pokrandt. 

Donations were requested once again to fund the pilot program, earning $60,000 of the total amount raised that evening. 

And then there was dancing 

“I’m excited for the dancing,” admitted nursing student, Tina Claughton as she explained why she quickly chose the event for her some of required volunteer hours; she wasn’t alone in this opinion. As soon as the program ended, guests quickly took to the dance floor, many spilling on to the carpet for room to dance to the live music of the Design Band. 

As the end of the evening approached, Pokrandt took the time to reflect, “I feel so fortunate to work in a community that cares so deeply about its local college and the success of our students. People are so incredibly generous in Douglas County,” Pokrandt said. “I hope all students know how much the community cares about their success and the opportunities available through the foundation to help them pay for college. UCC has so many foundation-provided resources that come directly from our community to support them to succeed.” 

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