“It could cost two or three teachers,” afterschool program’s biggest fundraiser of the year going virtual


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Jessye Norman School of the Arts provides free art education to low income students. They may be facing a funding issue now that their biggest fundraiser of the year is happening virtually.

70 to 75 percent of students in the afterschool program are low income and take free courses. But classes from drama to music to visual and digital arts are pricey to offer. The school has a huge benefit concert every year that accounts for a major part of the yearly budget.

But COVID had created an obstacle for fundraising.

“Last year we weren’t able to have the concert at all, and it resulted in about a $75,000 hole in our annual budget that we had to go find in other places,” executive director, Gary Dennis said.

Funding support was easier in 2020, thanks to PPE loans and the COVID relied package. This year, the school has no option but raise the money on its own.

“Missing this concert could cost us two or three subjects, it could cost us the ability to hold a summer camp. It could cost two or three teachers,” Dennis said.

Dennis says although it was an agonizing decision to take the benefit concert virtual, the board felt it could not take place in person.

“The hospitalization and ICU numbers for COVID and delta variant are still high,” Dennis said. “Our ICUs are packed.”

The benefit concert will still take place, it will just look a little different. For $40, anyone can buy a ticket to tune in online.

Dennis says an online format means there’s limit to how many tickets can be sold, and that gives him hope.

And the school is using the event as an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

“We have 744 seats in the Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, and almost everyone of them is going to have a flower representing somebody that we lost here in Richmond County due to COVID,” Dennis said. “That entire venue is going to be filled with the memory of the people who are no longer with us because of this disease.”

The concert will take place Sunday, Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

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