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Gala raises $300,000 for Catholic schools

The call for financial support of the Spokane Diocese’s Catholic schools was apparently heard.

The Nazareth Guild, a foundation formed to help the schools, received donations of more than $300,000 in its first fundraising effort, and money is still coming in, organizers said.

“When you put an organization like this together, you are never sure how accepting people are going to be,” said Don Herak, chairman of the Nazareth Guild. “I was somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of money we took in.”

The Nazareth Guild was formed in December and modeled after the successful Fulcrum Foundation in Seattle, which has raised more than $60 million for Catholic schools there and has helped 10,000 children in the past decade.

Both foundations came into existence because the diocesan schools were struggling financially for a variety of reasons, including a sour economy. The schools don’t receive taxpayer support; funding comes from tuition, fundraisers, parishes and endowments.

Consequently, some facilities were deteriorating, teachers’ pay is lagging behind their public-school counterparts, and some schools are struggling to buy new curricula or updated technology.

The Catholic Diocese of Spokane has 17 schools in Eastern Washington, extending to Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities.

On Saturday, 600 people from all over the state attended the Nazareth Guild’s gala at Gonzaga University, which included dinner and speakers who advocate for Catholic education.

“I knew going into it that people were excited about it,” Spokane Diocese Bishop Blase Cupich said. The gala “was one of the high points of my two years here in Eastern Washington. … After the event people lingered for almost an hour. They didn’t want it to end.”

Altogether, the Nazareth Guild has raised more than $400,000; the goal for the year is $500,000, said Andy Robideaux, Spokane Diocese development director.

“We will have a distribution to our schools this year to help students in need or help with recruitment or other programs that need enhancement,” Cupich said.

The gala signaled the “start of something,” he added. “This is a historic moment to be proud of. It’s a way to show the children how adults can pull together and accomplish goals.”