This is the year that United Way board member Jackie Berry is passing the wine glass.
After coming up with the idea for the Girls Night Out fundraiser, organizing it, and being the spokeswoman for it since the beginning, this is Berry’s last year in charge. She is handing the duties over to fellow board members Kim Hutson and Heather Garner.
Oct. 21 will be the 20th Girls Night Out for the United Way of St. Francois County, after last year’s was cancelled due to the pandemic. As always, it will be from 5-7 p.m. at Twin Oaks Vineyard and Winery, which is just five miles outside of Farmington on Route F.
Berry feels like now is the time for her to bow out and let the younger generation take over. Hudson and Garner have been helping her out with this year’s preparations.
“They've been doing a great job,” she said. “I think it’s in great hands.”
She came up with the idea for the fundraiser years ago after seeing a story about a lady who had an annual party with all of her wealthy friends to raise money for different charities.
“I thought what an easy way to make money, but I don't have wealthy friends and I'm certainly not wealthy,” Berry explained. “So we were talking one day about a new fundraiser. And I thought, well what if we just invited friends and they all gave money. We would charge them just $20 to come in and an item for one of our organizations. And so anyway, it worked and we've done really well.”
In those events, she estimates they have raised nearly $90,000. It is always one of the biggest fundraisers each year for the United Way and just a night for having fun.
This year, things will be a little different. For the first time, the entrance fee will be $25 instead of $20.
Berry said it’s a worthwhile donation.
“We give it to all of our organizations that we help,” she continued. “Every single penny stays right here in St. Francois County to help our neighbors and to give them a hand up in various ways that our agencies do that.”
Last year, the United Way awarded $129,859 to 28 local agencies, which was lowered significantly by the pandemic.
The Girls Night Out fall event is also always a fundraiser for Season of Hope, which helps less fortunate children in St. Francois County at Christmas time. This year, instead of gifts, the organization is asking for $25 gift cards, which is the other part of the entrance fee.
“So that the children who are feted with these gift cards, they will be excited on Christmas morning,” she explained. “And then the day after Christmas or whenever, they can go out and buy twice the amount of toys that are on sale after Christmas.”
No reservations are needed to join the party. But community members can pay in advance through PayPal if they want to skip the line. There will be a golf cart on hand to help escort those who have to park farther away.
Light appetizers will be provided. This year because of the ongoing pandemic, instead of homemade snacks, Bow Tie Catering will provide the appetizers.
“They’ll do a fantastic job,” Berry added.
As always, there will be a silent auction at the event. Items include a personal crab boil, pumpkin basket, restaurant gift cards, lotto tree, wine basket, Yeti cooler, fall wreath, massages, and cake pops.
Berry said Girls Night Out is a win-win-win.
“It's a win for United Way because we get to have the money to give to our agencies,” she explained. “It's a win for a Season of Hope to gather up all these gift cards for their children at Christmas time. And it's a win for all of the ladies that join us because they have such a great time.”
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.