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Every bid in the Scappoose online auction is 'a symbolic cheer of support' during a challenging year.

COURTESY OF GRANT WATTS PARENT ORGANIZATION - The Grant Watts Parent Organization auction includes dozens of baskets, gift certificates, and other goods.The Grant Watts Parent Organization's annual auction opens Monday, Oct. 19.

After more than 20 years, the auction has taken a new form. This year's auction is hosted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers are looking on the bright side: The virtual format makes it easier for extended family, neighbors, friends and other community members to bid on packages and raise money for students at the elementary school.

GWPO treasurer and auction chair Stephenie West said the changes brought by the pandemic were "a mixed blessing."

"When it goes virtual, it's open to everyone," West said.

The GWPO auction typically takes place in April of each year and includes gift certificates and packages contributed by local businesses, plus art projects completed by each class. Earlier this year, when the pandemic and resulting changes to social gatherings were just emerging, the GWPO downsized the event to just distribute the class projects.COURTESY OF GRANT WATTS PARENT ORGANIZATION - Students at Grant Watts Elementary School pose with their class projects, which were auctioned off in April.

"It was almost a little bit more sentimental, because it's one of the last things the kids got to do in a class setting," West said.

The class projects raised nearly $2,500. In past years, the full auction has raised upwards of $25,000, which is used to supplement classroom needs. Those funds go toward school field trips, family and community events, curriculum not covered in the school budgets, equipment for classrooms, and supplies for students, GWPO President Virginia Fenstermaker said.

West estimated that revenue from the auction typically accounts for roughly 90% of the GWPO budget.

This month's auction is a continuation of the April event, with all the donated goods open for bidding.

"Every bid is like a symbolic cheer of support," West said.

West said that organizers stored all the auction items for the past six months, and recently checked back in with the donors. Some packages included gift certificates, like $150 to Jubilee Salon in Warren, or an oil change at J&J Automotive Services.

Despite the strain the pandemic has put on many businesses, all the donors said they were still eager to keep their contributions in the auction.

Donations include a guided duck hunt, salmon fishing excursion, "Mom's Ultimate Day" package, an autographed Rose Bowl football, wine baskets and tastings, and a hot air balloon experience.

This year, as virtual learning continues, the requests for funding are slightly different. Rather than eliminating field trips for the year, educators are looking into paid virtual field trip options, Fenstermaker said.

"The innovative hands-on activities that we would have used funds for in the classroom will still be funded, but Grant Watts staff will get those supplies in the hands of the kiddos (at home) with pick-ups or home visit deliveries," Fenstermaker said.

GWPO has also funded digital supplemental curriculum in the past, which is all the more necessary with distance learning.

"Perhaps these funds have never been more needed as we work to support students both at home, as well as preparing classrooms for their return," Fenstermaker said.


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