Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Online auction for scholarship funds

Not so long ago, the Wahkiakum Dollars for Scholars organization held a Rods and Reels car show every year to raise scholarship funds for local students.

Sadly, it was time to retire the much loved event. A couple years ago, the group considered putting on something called a bike fondo in the county, but when covid-19 hit, they had to re-evaluate.

The organization, which has been raising money for scholarships to help local students since 2000, decided to hold an online auction last year after seeing how successful the event had been for the Friends of Skamokawa.

“With all of us getting up in years,” Lee Tischer said, “speaking for myself, this may be the thing that we continue with.”

Wahkiakum Dollars for Scholars raised over $16,000 last year. Pleased with the results, they did what they do every year--put some money in an endowment, some in a rainy day fund, and award scholarships to members of the senior class.

Hoping to do even better this year, they have set a goal of $20,000.

The auction begins today (Thursday). New auction items are welcome from donors until June 5, and bidding ends on June 12 at 6 p.m.

Featured items include art, handmade knives, overnight stays, football tickets, and more. A cord of wood, which was a popular item last year, has been donated again.

Visitors are welcome to bid on auction items or make tax deductible cash contributions.

“We like cash, lots of cash,” Diane Tischer said.

The auction site is a win/win for all involved, because it also allows donors to advertise their businesses. Several are already featured.

Wahkiakum Dollars for Scholars started in 2000, after the group applied to the national organization to form their own chapter. They are represented by a 10 member board and a cadre of steadfast volunteers. They are hoping a younger generation will take an interest.

“We’re always looking for new volunteers,” Doug Martin said. “We’re looking for new blood because we want to keep this thing going. We hope this will be a perpetual organization.”

They generally meet every other month, except in the summer, and follow a rule set by a former chair Walt Jaspers. Meetings never go over an hour.

Unless it’s scholarship time. But after 20 years, even that process has gotten a lot smoother.

They’ve raised $259,000 and have given out almost $575,000 in scholarships since 2000, thanks to the money they’ve been able to raise as well as generous sponsors who have set up their own criteria for scholarships, which the organization helps to award.

“Not all this money is generated by us; some is given to us by people in the community,” Steve McClain clarified.

An endowment fund was created with the hope that it would eventually be sizable enough to provide scholarships in perpetuity.

“Every one of these fundraisers from the sturgeon derby, to the car show, to this, we set aside 30 percent of what we pull in and put in that endowment,” McClain said.

Now they hope that people who are doing estate planning will consider supporting Wahkiakum Dollars for Scholars with a donation to the endowment.

In the past, there were creative donations from people celebrating friend’s birthdays or a special boss. Diane Tischer hopes that will continue.

“When you don’t know what to get someone for Christmas or birthdays, maybe give a little bit in their name,” she said. “The small amounts add up to a lot.”

The Tischers, Martin, and McClain have all been involved with the organization since it began more than 20 years ago. They stay because they care about the kids and the community, and because they understand the value of volunteering.

“We’re old school,” McClain said. “We came from a time when you worked on community projects, things that are good for the community. All of our kids are out and married and having their own kids, we don’t have a personal stake any more in it, but we’ve continued on.”

“We all wanted to give back,” Martin said. “I would love to see kids have the kind of opportunities that I had to get out and have a job and go to school, chase their dreams and be what they can be. I think we try to do that in our interviews: encourage the kids.”

“We’ve had kids who are 40 year olds thank us, that we gave them that push,” Lee Tischer said. “Somebody believed in them. They were on the fence whether they were going to be a failure in life or not, but this group pushed them in the right direction.”

The scholarships are awarded to students attending two and four year colleges, vocational schools and more.

“Our selection criteria is not just GPA based,” Martin said. “We look at extenuating circumstances, grades, activities, work history, community involvement. We really look at the kid and try to make it work so it’s something that really applies to the kid. We try to make it equitable to the kids who have succeeded and done well.”

The auction can be found at Posters and ads have a QR code that will take visitors directly to the site.

“I want people to check [the auction] out,” Diane Tischer said. “If you see something you want, bid on it. If you don’t, send us a check if you want to just donate.”


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