Summit Charter School Foundation ‘toasts’ to the trees

Supporters of the Summit Charter School Foundation attended a sold-out “Toast of the Trees” dinner at The Orchard Restaurant’s Harvest Barn on July 29.

Pictured below is Master of Ceremonies Rob Hunter sabering a champagne bottle at Toast to Trees.

The event was sponsored by Moët & Chandon champagne and was a kick-off event for top level Benefactors and Corporate Sponsors of the Foundation’s new fundraiser, the Cashiers Festival of Trees, which is scheduled for Nov. 26-27, 2021.

From left to right are Summit Charter School Foundation Board Member and Festival of Trees Co-Chair Sarah Palisi Chapin, Development Director Melissa Hudson, Summit Charter School Foundation Board Member and Festival of Trees Co-Chair Sarah Jennings.

Cashiers residents Sarah Palisi Chapin and Sarah Jennings represent the inaugural co-chairs.

The Summit Charter School Foundation is a 501(c)(3) that raises money to support Summit Charter School, a now K-12 public charter school in Cashiers. Summit serves 253 students and 45 teachers, representing four counties in rural western North Carolina.

Toast of the Trees attendees were greeted by Summit student and parent volunteers. Pictured is rising fifth grader Mia Krueger greeting guest Joe Pryse with co-chair Sarah Jennings in the background.

Summit, which was founded 25 years ago on the Village Green campus and now resides off Mitten Lane, engages students in learning experiences that stimulate discovery, inspire excellence, and nurture a positive influence in an ever-changing world.

The school’s primary goals are to graduate students who are academically prepared, engaged in the community, healthy, and strong in character.

As a tuition-free public charter school, Summit receives significantly less public funding than a traditional public school and zero funding for capital improvements said Summit Development Director Melissa Hudson.

“To sustain the qualities of a Summit education and to ensure our children thrive, the Foundation must raise private funding on an annual basis to close the school’s funding gap,” said Hudson. “We are excited about our new Festival of Trees fundraiser and the Toast of the Trees event was a sneak-peek of the festive fun to come Thanksgiving weekend.”

Cashiers Festival of Trees will be a multi-day, family-friendly event where guests tour and bid on decorated trees and holiday décor, enjoy a wide variety of holiday performances, create personalized children’s crafts, celebrate literacy on a Dolly Parton Imagination Library Storytime Stage, shop one-of-a-kind gifts in the Gift Zone, and enjoy a pop-up Build-A-Bear workshop. The event will take place in the Summit Center, the school’s athletics and fine arts facility.

Three high school students shared remarks during the program, including (from left to right) Esme Perez, Zach Russell, and Faith Taylor. These students represent members of the Class of 2022, Summit’s inaugural senior class. The school’s first-ever high school graduation is scheduled for May 21, 2022.

Giving Back

While raising funds for the school is the primary focus of the event, the Summit Foundation has decided to spread the holiday spirit of giving.

“When a non-profit decorates a tree, 20% of the item’s sale will go back to the participating non-profit, creating a collaborative initiative to benefit our fellow charities and their worthy causes. Supporting our entire community is very important to our cause and the school’s overall mission,” said co-chairs Chapin and Jennings, in a joint statement. Nonprofits, businesses, churches, and individuals are encouraged to get involved.

Guests enjoyed a brief albeit thrilling live auction. Pictured is Carol Hunter, who with her husband Rob Hunter, led the committee for Toast of the Trees.

The deadline to submit a participant form is Aug. 15.

Some of the organizations already signed up include the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic, McKee Properties, Four Seasons Hospice, The Bascom, the Boys & Girls Club of the Plateau, and Cashiers Farmers Market.

For those interested in decorating a tree, but aren’t sure how to get started with a design, the Foundation provides a list of themes, as well as local designers to assist.

The festival has been organized in concert with the community’s other holiday events, in a dedicated effort to drive cross traffic, and community collaboration.

“Festival events will open with special breakfasts and will close in time for the Village Green’s Tree Lighting. We are also looking forward to offering a student-led gift-wrapping station in town to help the community,” explains Chapin.

Thanks to Sandy Linebaugh of Fiddlehead Designs, The Orchard Restaurant’s event venue transformed into a winter wonderland for the evening.

Moët & Chandon Toast of the Trees

At July’s Toast of the Trees, guests enjoyed a champagne reception followed by a multi-course meal prepared by The Orchard’s Travis Boswell and paired with wines from Newton Vineyard and Cloudy Bay. The night ended with a thrilling live auction of a product adorned tree, designed by Sandy Linebaugh of Fiddlehead Designs.

The tree was so popular with the attendees that it sold twice, with proceeds of $16,000 supporting Summit’s growing high school program. Carol and Rob Hunter, the Foundation’s Treasurer and his wife, served as hosts of the evening.

From left are Jason Guerra, NC On-Off Premise Manager of Moët Hennessy USA, and Chip Hamner, NC Market Manager of Moët Hennessy, were the title sponsors of Toast and handled all beverage and pairing selections throughout the event. “Toast would not be possible without the generosity of Moët, Chip, Jason, and our incredible benefactors and corporate sponsors. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for believing in our school children and the community at large” concluded co-chairs Chapin and Jennings.

Additional sponsors of the night’s events included Design South Builders, McKee Properties, The Spinx Company, Crawford Construction, Cashiers Farmers Market, Sarah Lane’s Cookies, The Moskowitz Law Firm, Jersey Mikes, Cashiers Firewood, The Club at High Hampton, Acorns Boutique, and Caroline’s Cakes.

To learn more about the Cashiers Festival of Trees click HERE.

Photos by Susan B Photography, Editor’s note: Susan’s work is amazing, see more HERE
Article courtesy of Summit Charter School

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