Political talk, culinary delights at Avilla Community Center fundraiser

Saline County residents showed their support for the Avilla Community Center by turning out for a recent fundraiser for the historic structure that once served as a schoolhouse for many residents of Saline County.
The building now serves as a polling site with its upkeep overseen by the Avilla Extension Homemakers Club, which sponsored the event.
According to Saline County Justice of the Peace Barbara Howell, the fundraiser was a "tremendous success," exceeding expectations by bringing in more than $3,000 that will help keep the facility in use for many years to come
."Everyone that came said they had a wonderful time," said Howell, one of the organizers of the event.
"The building is such a heartwarming place to even visit," Howell said. "Displayed on the front row was a recitation bench that the students used to recite their homework back in the mid-1930s. "Many area residents came to visit and support the building," she said.
Among those attending the event were 20 politicians, many of whom brought desserts to be auctioned.
Cakes and pies were sold at premium prices in this setting under the glib "auction-speak" of John Saugey, known for his auctioneering talents throughout the Central Arkansas area.
She noted that one cake, which was auctioned twice, brought in a total of $625. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Arkansas, initially purchased the cake for $400, then returned it to the auction items. The second time around, it brought in another $225 for the project
"The cake was a creation of Frances West, who is known for baking her five-layered coconut cake for the event," Howell said.
"Two years ago, the cake sold for $250, but West outdid herself this time," Howell said. "Frances was so overwhelmed that she cried."
Howell pointed out that funds are needed continually for the building's upkeep.
"Since it is over 100 years old, something is always need of repair," she noted.
At the recent event, the group was raising money to pay for general upkeep and roof repairs on the building.
Many people were involved in preparations for the event, Howell said. She noted that Dawn and Jeremy Hammonds repaired a walkway and repainted it preceding the event, Howell said.
"And April Burchfield came to the rescue and mowed the yard a day before the event," she said.
Approximately 100 people attended, Howell said.
"A lot of people enjoy seeing the building," Howell said. "It's a nostalgic experience for many people of the area."
She noted that the building is open by appointment by calling her at 681-7577.
"If anyone ever wants to help with the building, they also should call me," she added.
The next event at the center will be on May 22 when it will serve as a poling site in the preferential primary election. "Then it will be used again next November for the general election," she said.
Avilla Extension Homemakers Club members who helped with the event were Frances West; LaVerne Massey who made a quilt that was raffled and won by Lucy Murray; April Burchfield, Dawn Hammonds, Pam Lawhon, Linda Murray, Karen Watkins, Billy and Teresa Ellis, Peggy Hudson, Myra Pritchett, the treasurer of the group, and her husband, Bud Pritchett; and Howell.
"Many others sent desserts," she added. "And Nancy and Steve Carlton of Salem Pharmacy donated patriotic jewelry that was auctioned off. A quilt was made by LaVerne Massey and Lucy Murray won the quilt.
Howell expressed appreciation to everyone who helped with the event.
"And we thank everyone who came, donated items and bought items to help keep this building in good shape for many many years to come."