Chattanooga schools combine resources to streamline fundraising effort

Notre Dame students show support for their high school. Notre Dame, St. Jude and Our Lady of Perpetual Help schools in Chattanooga are preparing for their second annual Chatti Gras fundraiser early next year. The schools are combining resources to stage one large event that will benefit programs at all three schools.

CHATTANOOGA — Chattanooga’s Catholic schools, deciding to “work smarter instead of working harder,” have taken a unique approach to raising funds for programs and activities.
The three schools, Notre Dame, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Jude, decided last year after several years of discussion and planning to give up their spring dinners, dances and auctions in favor of one large event for the community.
Hundreds of volunteers worked in planning the one large event, which was called Chatti Gras and held last February as a Mardi Gras celebration to mark the Lenten season.
“We were all working for the same benefit—the promotion of Catholic education, and were inviting and soliciting many of the same people. We decided to work together to garner this benefit, but even better to strengthen our Chattanooga Catholic community,” said Kathleen Etherton, director of development and clinic manager at St. Jude School.
“We believe our unique approach to holding a traditional school fundraiser succeeded in not only the typical outcome of extra monies but in creating a large Chattanooga Catholic event that has quickly developed a reputation of tradition,” she added.
The organizers of Chatti Gras are working on the 2013 fundraiser, which will be held on Feb. 9 at the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center. It will be a Mardi Gras event, Chattanooga style with dinner, casino games, auction, and dancing to the band “New Revival” out of Nashville.
The event again will be sponsored by Notre Dame, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Jude schools, with proceeds equally benefiting the three schools plus the Chattanooga Deanery Operating Fund that assists in tuition support for families in need.

At the first Chatti Gras last February, some 900 individuals in the Catholic community attended, prompting Mrs. Etherton to call Chatti Gras a signature event for the Catholic community that creates a new Chattanooga tradition. Attendees included alumni, parents, parishioners, grandparents, Knights of Columbus councils, and many faculty and staff.
More than $40,000 was raised last February.
Mrs. Etherton reported that $1.3 million was given in tuition assistance by the Chattanooga Deanery Operating Fund last year, benefiting about 170 families. She noted that St. Jude and OLPH dedicate millions of dollars above their tuition income to Catholic parochial education, with all parishes in the Chattanooga Deanery contributing to the operating fund.
She said the first Chatti Gras was a learning experience.
“Because we had to turn folks away last year, we have increased our venue space and anticipate attendance of 1000 to 1,100 individuals,” she said.
Memorial Healthcare System, which is the Catholic Hospital in Chattanooga, is the Chatti Gras presenting sponsor. Newschannel 9 and WGOW are providing media sponsorships. n

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