The program, which included a raffle with 365 winners of cash prizes, raised more than $225,000 for tuition support
By Bill Brewer
Diocese of Knoxville school leaders are praising the results of the first calendar sales program and raffle to benefit tuition assistance funds for the diocese’s 10 schools.
Sales for the 2018 calendars began in September and concluded just before Christmas. A raffle was held Jan. 3 as part of the calendar fundraiser, and 365 winners of cash prizes were named.
Sister Mary Marta Abbott, RSM, superintendent of diocesan schools, said the results were solid and something to build on for the 2019 calendar sales effort.
“It was our first year, and it was very successful. We made over $225,000 for tuition support,” she said.
Nearly 10,000 calendars were sold at a cost of $36.50 each, according to Sister Mary Marta. Now that the new fundraising program has a year under its belt, the superintendent hopes to sell 25,000 calendars when sales get underway with the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
Father Chris Michelson, pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish and president of St. Joseph School, brought the fundraising concept to the Diocese of Knoxville and has been trying for more than two years to make it work.
He said it is patterned after similar fundraisers in other dioceses across the country.
But it’s the purpose that makes this fundraiser unique, according to Father Michelson and Sister Mary Marta. That purpose is increasing the pool of money schools across the diocese rely on in offering tuition assistance to students and families in need.
Father Michelson has explained that each October school administrators from around the diocese gather to discuss the Catholic Schools Regional Fund. The discussion has centered on how there is not enough money in the fund to meet all the requests for tuition assistance.
He said the tuition assistance need is growing each year, so a solution was required to keep up with that growing need.
“I really commend Father Chris Michelson for what he’s done. He’s a parish priest, he’s president of St. Joseph School, and he’s the founder of this program. I am grateful to him for his dedication to our Catholic schools and tuition assistance,” Sister Mary Marta said.
Father Michelson and Sister Mary Marta assembled a team to launch the calendars and administer the program. Serving on the schools calendar committee were Dickie Sompayrac, Andy Zengel, Diannah Miller, Joni Punch, and Father Michelson. Marcy Meldahl served as program administrator.
The 10 diocesan schools — Notre Dame High School, St. Jude, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga, St. Mary in Oak Ridge, St. John Neumann in Farragut, St. Dominic in Kingsport, St. Mary in Johnson City, and Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, and Knoxville Catholic High School in Knoxville — began selling the 2018 calendars in early September.
Proceeds from the sale of the calendars were divided among the schools, parishes, and the Catholic Schools Tuition Support Funds in the four deaneries of the diocese. Schools kept $15 from each calendar sold, and parishes kept $15 from each calendar sold.
Money raised through the sale of business sponsorships of the calendars funded $50,000 in prize money that was given away at the January raffle drawing.
Sister Mary Marta was encouraged at how the diocese and its schools got behind the calendar fundraiser, and she’s hopeful parishioners will continue to support it in growing numbers.
“Our principals really embraced this project, and they’re already looking forward to next year. And I believe our raffle winners were spread out evenly across the diocese,” she said. “I certainly wish we had sold more, but I’m hopeful our calendar sales will increase each year. I think we can raise more funds for tuition assistance next year.”