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Parent volunteers work to package fruit salad that was intended for the Riverside Christian School Auction that was planned for Saturday, March 14, 2020, in the kitchen of Riverside Christian School in Yakima, Wash.

Volunteers had worked for hours to arrange tables, set out items for sale and decorate the school gymnasium into an extravagant dining hall.

The guitarists for the upcoming night’s entertainment had been preparing for weeks for their performance.

Then it all ground to a stop.

Not long before the Riverside Christian School’s yearly benefit auction was set to open, Gov. Jay Inslee released his order to halt all large events in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The auction was planned for March 14 and was to include a live and silent auction and a catered dinner.

The auction is a yearlong project, according to RCS Administrator Melody Stein, who has worked on the event for 10 years. As auction chairwoman, she has worked alongside volunteers and school staff throughout the year to plan the event.

Stein said that in the days leading up to the governor’s announcement, the auction’s directors knew they would need to be flexible. They continued to hope the event would be able to go ahead, up to the realization that it needed to be postponed.

The yearly benefit auction has a long history and the money it raises is essential for the school’s operation. Guests are also able to donate to a variable tuition program that helps lower tuition for some members of the school’s community. The event also involves fundraising for a specific “Fund-An-Item” each year, with those areas of donations going toward improving the school by purchasing new equipment or other upgrades.

Over 70 adult and student volunteers were expected to be involved in accommodating the 450-plus guests expected March 14. Many other volunteers had worked to prepare the building for the activity, until being told it would all have to be undone.

But, as Stein noted, “All the volunteers had really positive attitudes and said they would be willing to do this all over again.”

Mike Emmans, a science teacher and guitar instructor at Riverside Christian, had just finished setting up for the big night with his guitar students when the event was postponed. The expectation was for five of his students to play during the dinner. Rather than immediately pack up, they played for the volunteers who had gathered to repack the tables, decorations and auction items.

“We figured everyone was upset over it so we’d lighten the mood,” he said Monday.

Thanks to the support of Riverside families, the school was able to quickly recoup its costs for what had been planned for that Saturday.

Karen Young, chair-

woman of the advancement committee that runs the auction, had gotten off work early to bring her family to the school to help with the cleanup during the night of the postponement. Expressing her gratitude to the supporters of the planned event, she remarked: “Riverside families always seem to come through. God always seems to put it on the families to come through for the school and students.”

Young, who is a dentist by profession, also offered her perspective on the overall crisis and the current precautions: “We need to protect our population that is most at risk. If this is what we need to do, we’ll do it.”

Overall, the hope of Riverside administrators and volunteers is that the annual auction will be able to be rescheduled for later in the spring. They expressed gratitude for the continued patience and support of the Riverside community.

Justin Klingele is a senior at Riverside Christian School.