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Fundraiser Offers Options
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With a down economy, fundraising has become difficult for many non-profit organizations but the Oakdale Educational Foundation is “jazzing” things up by offering options for those who want to open their pocketbooks but can’t afford prior spending and donation practices.

OEF will host jazz/pop vocalist Slim Man and his band Bona Fide at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club (OGCC) on Saturday, Sept. 12 with two different ticket price options.

“Everyone can help,” said OEF President Connie Friel, adding that the options offer a chance for more people to help support the schools.

The past two years, the fundraiser has been a $150 ticket with a musician and heavy buffet. This year, there will be a $150 ticket for a full evening and a $50 ticket for a partial evening, both including the music of Slim Man and Bona Fide.

Friel explained that the foundation was searching for someone different to perform at this year’s event, they researched tribute bands but found them to be costly and costs were important. Slim Man has been to the Modesto area several times and has developed a following. The OEF members listened to his music online and liked what they heard – Friel describes it as pop/jazz/blues mix, he has released several CDs, and they felt he was charismatic and had an interesting bio. She added that OEF was able to save several thousand dollars by not having to go through a booking agent because Slim Man has a relationship with a Modesto area promoter that the group was able to work with.

Money raised from the organization’s annual primary fundraiser will help schools in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District to meet financial shortfalls.

“What OEF is doing, what they’ve always done, is supplement district programs. They’ve been extremely helpful with academic programs, art/music programs, and technology,” said OJUSD Superintendent Fred Rich. “With a shrinking governor’s budget, what used to be supplemental on (OEF’s) part is now core on their part. An example of that is that principals in the last two years have had to cut their instructional materials budget due to the state cuts and OEF has filled in $50,000 to $60,000 every year to the district, which will become more core… Another example: district technology has been dramatically reduced…therefore, (everything) will be supplied via mini grants.”

Friel said that grant requests from teachers this year total more than $175,000. She said that OEF may only be able to meet one-third of the requests. She acknowledged that being able to meet that amount is wonderful, but at the same time, since its inception the OEF has been fortunate to be able to meet most all of the grant requests. In the past, the school district has been able to provide matching funds on many grants, but that is no longer the case.

Superintendent Rich compared OEF’s former contributions as being “icing on the cake – or above and beyond dessert.” Now, Rich said, what OEF provides will be more like “part of a nutritious meal” to the school district.

“We are really looking forward to a time when they will go back to being a supplemental foundation,” Rich said, adding how much the district appreciates what OEF has done for Oakdale schools.

Earlier this year, the OEF was honored with the California Teachers Association State Gold Award for its outstanding support of public schools. The OEF was founded in 2003 and has provided more than $300,000 in grants that have gone directly into Oakdale classrooms and programs. The contributions have benefited special education, after school programs, alternative education, technology, and more.

“You really can’t walk into any classroom in the district without seeing equipment or programs that have been donated by OEF, which is very exciting,” Friel said.

Friel said that it takes hours to sort through the grant requests and there are more requests this year than in prior years. She said that in the past, school principals would rate the requests on a high, medium, low priority scale but that OEF didn’t have to worry much about the prioritization and could award most of the requests. This year, however, the foundation has to invoke a rigid scale to be fair.

“As a board, it’s going to be painful because there are so many excellent requests in all aspects of curricular support, not just enrichment,” Friel lamented. “We will not be able to fund all of them. How do we make that decision? They all have near equal merit.”

She said that the goal is to make about $80,000 this year. Gearing up for the concert fundraiser, donor support is up this year at about $40,000.

“We’re elated this year our wonderful donors have surpassed their past giving,” Friel said. “…We are so grateful to the continuing generosity of our sponsors.”

This year’s event features a bold, contemporary theme, “Jazz It Up,” and will showcase a mix of listening and visual art.

Slim Man is a versatile musician who sings and plays guitar, bass, piano, and trumpet. He was a songwriter for the famous Motown label and has been performing since he was in grade school. He is also the star of his own television cooking show on the East Coast. His band members are all accomplished musicians who perform with other artists.

The day before the OEF fundraiser, Slim Man and a saxophone player from his band will do two special performances at Oakdale High School and a performance at one of the other Oakdale schools.

There will also be fine art by Oakdale resident David Rodrigues on display and for sale at the event. Most of his pieces will be jazz themed; however, there will also be paintings with other subject matter. The paintings are a mix of watercolor, acrylic, and collage. He is also donating an 18” x 24” mixed media piece entitled “Encore” to be auctioned.

The $150 ticket is for the entire evening, beginning at 5 p.m. It includes a hosted bar from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, sit down dinner with entertainment provided by the James Todd Trio, a “fast and furious” live auction, and dancing to the music of Slim Man with Bona Fide.

The $50 ticket is for a partial evening, starting at 8 p.m. It includes a dessert “extravaganza,” no host bar, and dancing to Slim Man with Bona Fide.

Friel commented on the OGCC’s new, notable Chef Dan and expects the food offerings to be delicious.

“He has cooked for Julia Child, Ronald Reagan… and we are so lucky to have him in the community,” she said.

For more information about Slim Man, go to his website Slim Man’s CDs, cooking videos, and more will be available for sale at the event. He will sign autographs at the end of the evening.

Rodrigues’ art can be viewed on his website,

Tickets for the OEF event may be purchased at Oak Valley Community Bank, 125 No. Third, or at the OJUSD office, 168 So. Third. For more information, contact the OJUSD office at 848-4884 and ask for Debbie Galvan-Benbow, Anita, or Kim.