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Annual benefit to help St. Catherine Academy up enrollment, improve facility

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By Kacie Goode

At over 100 students, St. Catherine Academy’s enrollment is a little higher than in years past, and school officials say community support has played a big role in that growth.

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On Jan. 28, the Catholic school in New Haven will host its fifth annual benefit banquet, the academy’s major fundraiser of the year.

The idea for the banquet came about when the alumni association was looking to help the school raise money. It was a time when the academy was facing some difficulties in enrollment and finances.

“We were crossing our fingers to get $10,000,” said committee member Debbie Wimpsett of the first event. But the dinner went over better than expected, and $50,000 in donations came in. Additional money received at that time later amounted to more than $80,000 for the academy’s first big fundraiser.

“It was such a success and everybody wanted us to continue,” Wimpsett said.

The main focus of the event is to raise money for tuition assistance, and give more families in the area the option to send their children to Catholic school.

Last year, the school was able to dole out around $22,000 in assistance, Fr. Chris Lubecke said.

In addition to financial assistance for students, the benefit also helps with facility improvements. Over the years, the dinner has funded a renovation of the school’s detached gymnasium, which is also used to host several community events. The dinner has also supported redoing the school’s interior lighting with LEDs, and installing a new playground, among other projects.

“Every dollar somebody gives makes a difference,” Wimpsett said.

While the focus of the benefit is the students, the annual event is also considered a homecoming for many in the community with ties to the school.

“It’s a time for people to come back together and visit,” said committee member Ed Kirkpatrick. “We have a lot of folks that come in from out of town and some out of state just to come to this fundraiser.”

Photographers will often take pictures of many of the graduating class members who attend, as well as families who attend.

“We have four and five generations that have gone to school here, and now their great grandchildren,” said Cordelia Ball. “This grade school keeps this community together. It’s a huge part of New Haven.”

The 2017 Portraits of Excellence benefit banquet will take place Saturday, Jan. 28, at the St. Catherine Academy gymnasium at 413 N. First Street in New Haven. Cocktail hour begins at 5 p.m. with a catered dinner at 6:30 p.m. Younger schoolchildren will sing for attendees and older students will help serve and clean up during the dinner.

The cost is $50 per person, which includes two cocktails. A cash bar will also be available. Seating is limited and RSVPs should be made by Jan. 18.

Part of the event will include a message from this year’s guest speaker, Gary Montgomery, about the importance of Catholic education. Montgomery, a Louisville native, is an award-winning sportscaster and professional motivational speaker.

To RSVP, contact Tonia at 502-549-3680.