Area events raise funds to assist tsunami relief

More than $20,000 was raised during the weekend by area fund-raisers.


Art enthusiasts look Sunday at different works of art that were donated to the "Turn the Tide" benefit/silent auction held at The Atlantic.

DAVID MASSEY/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 10, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 11:55 p.m.
The top floor of The Atlantic was sticky and crowded, but Vic Ramey wasn't budging.
"Are any of you Rochelle?" he asked a crowd gathered near a carved wall hanging of an oar at the Turn the Tide silent auction Sunday night at the nightspot on N. Main Street. "Rochelle? Rochelle?"
No answer. "Thank goodness," he said, sighing. Rochelle surfaced, and outbid Ramey moments before the volunteers manning the auction, which aimed to raise money to benefit victims of the Asian tsunami two weeks ago, announced the closing of sales.
The two competitors compromised - Ramey contributed a few more dollars to fund Rochelle's bid, then turned his attention to a lamp with a complicated heart-pine base.
"Now I've contributed to the tsunami victims," Ramey said as he noted his high bid of $85 on the lamp.
The theme of contributions rather than competition resonated throughout the packed venue Sunday night as dozens of bidders tried to name the high price for more than 300 pieces of art, gift certificates and other prizes, but acknowledged that the event was more about giving than getting.
On the top story, bidders perused paintings and sculptures from artists like Margaret Tolbert, Eleanor Blair, Jerry Uelsmann and Randy Batista, among others, and vied for gift certificates to places like The Top restaurant, Gainesville Health and Fitness Center, and Hippodrome State Theatre.
Downstairs, in a cooler, darker space, they listened to the Turkey Scratch Ramblers and snacked on hummus, black bean dip and other munchies while awaiting results.
About 400 people came and $18,553 was raised for the American Red Cross International Relief Fund.
Lauren Garber, an assistant art professor at the University of Florida, organized the event, and Debbie Branson, executive director of the North Central Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she was thrilled with the turnout, not matter what the final numbers were.
"She doesn't want this to be about her, but she's done an amazing job," Branson said. "Folks come to us all the time wanting to do fund-raising events, but in the week she's had to put this together, this is pretty incredible."
The event was one of several local efforts to raise money to benefit tsunami victims.
In Micanopy, residents this weekend organized a fund-raising drive that aims to collect $10 per Micanopy resident to go toward tsunami aid. Rob Pierce, one of the residents spearheading the project, said residents of any Micanopy-area city are welcome to contribute.
"Some of us thought, well, the national contribution to the tsunami relief fund is just a little over $1 per person," Pierce said. "We're not a rich town by any means, but we thought we could do better than that."
Pierce said in the last 48 hours, the First Baptist Church in Micanopy had donated $4,000 and the Church of the Mediator had pledged $700.
The Micanopy Area Relief Fund will likely benefit the American Red Cross as well, Pierce said. Checks can be sent to P.O. Box 700 in Micanopy, he said.
In Gainesville, the bidders said they were just as touched by the outpouring of donations as Pierce was.
"It shows that the community is just totally generous," said Gladys Cofrin, who had just bid on a vibrant turquoise oil painting of a Gainesville-area lake. "It's incredible, the number of people who showed up on such short notice."
Cofrin said considering where the money was going, whether she won the painting or not was practically beside the point.
"For me, I knew I was going to make a donation," Cofrin said. "I love all the artists in Gainesville, so this was the perfect way to do it."
Amy Reinink can be reached at 374-5088 or reinina@gvillesun.com.

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