34th-annual dinner and auction raises more than $350,000 for groups that 'make our world a better place'

How many lobsters does it take to raise nearly $4 million?

About 32,000 pounds' worth, as it turns out — all cooked and served by volunteers from the Lake Oswego Rotary Club and the Lakewood Center for the Arts over the past 34 years at their annual Lobster Feed and Charity Auction.

On Saturday night, the two organizations were at it again, drawing a record 640 diners to a huge tent erected outside the Lakewood Center. There they dined on fresh Maine lobsters, butter clams from the Puget Sound, corn on the cob, coleslaw and more.

And when they were done, they participated in live and silent auctions that helped raise more than $350,000 for the Rotary Foundation, the Lakewood Center and a variety of other community organizations. Included in that total: more than $57,000 from a special paddle raise to support Framework International, a nonprofit that builds schools in Africa, and other education-related projects.

"The proceeds of this auction will change lives, and it demonstrates how much we care, how willing we are to help others, and that we believe strongly that we can make a positive impact here and beyond," says Rotary Club President Bill Baars. "And we had a great time doing it!"

Lakewood Executive Director Andrew Edwards says the Lobster Feed and Charity Auction is "an amazing and productive friendship/partnership" between the Rotary Club and the Lakewood Center. Scott Havens and Skip O'Neill represented the organizations by serving as co-chairs for this year's event.

"The Lobster Feed was an amazing party, as it has been for 34 years," Havens said. "Thanks so much to our sponsors, the 640 patrons and our many volunteers from Lakewood and Rotary. Creating a tent space and delivering 640 meals is a challenge, but our group has been doing it for years. It is THE event that kicks off the summer for me, and for many."

None of the evening's festivities would have been possible without an army of volunteers, who were everywhere in the days leading up to the Lobster Feed — selling hats, tickets and sponsorships; coordinating, training and securing volunteers; purchasing supplies, food and wine; and donating items for gift baskets that were part of a festive silent auction and elaborate packages for a live auction.

Dozens more worked behind the scenes on Saturday to prepare and serve the food — led by head chefs Wade Byers and Dave Riback, who supervised a massive barbecue piled high with 2,200 pounds of charcoal — and still more hung out afterward to compost organic waste and recycle the rest.

"The Lobster Feed and Charity Auction is a signature event for the community, and it is a testament to the hard work and partnership of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club and Lakewood Center for the Arts that the event was so successful," says Baars, who is also director of the Lake Oswego Public Library. "It was a wonderful evening, and the generosity of the participants was a message about our shared values and our efforts to make our community — and our world — a better place."

— Gary M. Stein

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