UNCF Birmingham’s signature masked gala takes place this Saturday at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel with special guest Chaka Khan. Area development director Walvid King gave me a sneak peek into what guests can expect. The black-tie evening, which began as a dinner, “switched to a gala concept in 1990 or 1991,” according to King. With a $400,000 fundraising goal this year, the local office hopes to exceed that goal and raise half a million dollars this year, and King believes they are well on their way.
What first-timers to the gala can expect: “A first-timer can expect to get a complete understanding of the mission of UNCF, a brief overview of the talent on our college campuses and to hear from UNCF administrators. They will get a complete overview of what UNCF is all about, and its constituents.”
The Gala’s impact: “That impact is almost [beyond measure]. We’ve raised over [six figures] on average to support young people in the state of Alabama attending our schools. You can look at that as being one portion of what we do. Another portion will go to student aid. Another portion will go to the school administration for development of its educational staff and infrastructure; [funding] not only benefits hundreds of youth, but extends onto the campus. The impact is tremendous. Every dollar counts.” (The local UNCF development office uses 10% of those funds for administrative costs.)
“Everything else goes back to the schools,” according to King.
What sets it apart from other fundraisers? “I wouldn’t put it in comparison to any other organization, but everything about our organization is [tied to] fundraising, and I’m not sure if that’s everyone else’s mission. We are still the number one minority assistance fund in America, and I’d say we hold that crown locally as well.”
Are there any surprises in store for guests Saturday night? “I don’t want to blow the whistle, but yes, there are some surprises planned. It wouldn’t be a surprise if I blew the whistle. (Laughs) It will be a star-studded event supporting educational excellence in this state; this is not something you want to get secondhand. You have to be there to see it.”
King also noted that the local UNCF office manages fundraising for two and a half states with a staff of two people, something that may not be well-known.
“[The gala] is building and we are growing. And everyone involved is important. I really want to thank my wife for her patience during this time; she also volunteers in the office. And I can’t forget Bryna Reid, who holds everything together while I’m out raising money,” King added. “It’s on the backbone, sweat and tears of myself and the volunteers who come by to stuff envelopes and make contacts. [Many attended UNCF schools and just want to give back.] It’s a big family effort. ”
This year’s co-chairs are Bill Horton of Regions, and Bobbie Knight-Burley of Alabama Power. King also expressed gratitude to the numerous sponsors who provided monetary support and man-hours, including two new sponsors: BP and Hershey’s.
For tickets, contact 322-8623 or the UNCF event website. Don’t forget your mask!
Image via chakakhan.com