Patrons milled around the silent auction table Friday evening while the Aubrey High School jazz band played smooth lounge music.
The occasion bringing them to the Embassy Suites in Denton together: the 20th annual Aubrey Education Foundation Evening for Education.
“We’re all here for the kids, we’re all here to open up our pocketbooks, so sit down, relax and enjoy,” foundation President Rodney Cagle said.
This year brought in $70,000 between ticket sales, auction items and a golden ticket raffle. That’s about $6,000 more than the foundation collected in 2018. AEF Executive Director Rhonda Brawner, the foundation’s only paid employee, said the goal of the organization is to keep growing the amount it brings in each year.
The AEF added a new component of the celebration this year – naming members to the Chaparral Elite Hall of Fame. The inaugural members named as Chaparral elites were Tim Leslie, Rick Rike, Rosemary Cummings, Michael Starr and Evalois Owens.
Owens’ award was presented by Jackie Fuller, for whom the new Aubrey ISD elementary school has been named.
“She is a person that has done so much for Aubrey,” Fuller said.
She had to adjust the microphone before continuing so she could be heard throughout the hall.
“This human Energizer Bunny, she has worked tirelessly to keep the wheels turning of the Aubrey district like a well-oiled machine,” Fuller said.
Owens has attended, worked in or served Aubrey ISD throughout her life, she said. That service included being on the committee that selected the Elite winners, but Owens did not know she was considered for the award.
“It’s really sweet,” Owens said. “I’ve been in Aubrey school nearly all my life. I went through Aubrey school, and then I worked at Aubrey school for 40 years.”
Entities including Pogue Construction and Huckabee Inc., which are working on several of the district’s building projects, as well as Tenly Landscape Construction and CoServ, which are local, provided sponsorships for the event.
The Huckabee table featured four teachers from Monaco Elementary School: Victoria Norris, Mariah and Kyle Wilbert, and Bryn Tucker. Bryn was accompanied by her husband, Scott.
“It’s very important that they get the opportunity to come here and experience all of this,” said Steve Hafer of Huckabee.
That described Norris, a second-grade teacher at Monaco, who said she would have attended the 2018 event but couldn’t fit the ticket into her budget.
“I love it,” Norris said. “It’s interesting. I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Wilberts have attended AEF galas in the past, but they almost missed this one, Mariah said, and were grateful for the chance to sit at the Huckabee table.
The top table was the first item auctioned off. Sitting atop the table was a bright red antique bicycle that held history and English textbooks, a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss and a bright red apple with floral arrangements popping out of the baskets on the bike.
The textbooks were a nod to the evening’s overall theme: through the years.
At each seat, a mini canvas covered in colorful painted flowers and a metallic charger holding a mini composition notebook, webcam cover and pencil, awaited its occupants.
The deal included a steak dinner and wine, auctioneer and high school ag teacher Tracy “TY” Yarbrough said.
“If not, we’ll get you some wine,” he said before opening the bidding.
The other tables spread throughout the room were decorated with pieces of Aubrey ISD’s past, including old yearbooks, football programs and other pieces of memorabilia.
The liveliest portion of the evening was Cagle’s favorite: the live auction.
Yarbrough announced the items, calling out the amount, while fellow auctioneer Earl Stander wandered throughout the crowd, encouraging bidders to keep upping their offers.
Stander lives in Aubrey and his son was a recipient of one of the foundation’s scholarships.
The top grossing item was a certificate for an additional personal day for a teacher of the winner’s choice, which went for $700 to Brandon and Jamie Martino.
Kyle was excited to see the cornhole games, which he built as the Monaco fourth grade contribution to the auction, sell for $550.
“That made 50 more than I thought it would,” he said. “That’s good.”
The resounding theme of the evening was that everything, from the Goin family paying $1,250 to sit at the head table to bidding on auction items to just buying a ticket, was for the students and teachers benefiting from the proceeds.
“We didn’t have a table, Tracy,” Deborah Goin said as she walked through the crowd from the back. “We didn’t have anywhere to sit. We had to by a damn table.”
Deborah has been involved with the foundation since it grew to be the Aubrey Education Foundation from the Aubrey Athletic Booster Club.
She and AISD board Vice President Joey Saxon kept trading highest bid on the table.
“It’s for the kids,” her sister-in-law Traci Goin said.
Traci got the chance to select the first live auction item thanks to her winning raffle ticket.
Cagle said the foundation accepts every scholarship application it receives. For him, though, the teacher grants make a huge impact and can help students across the district at all levels. And the number of requests for teacher grants has grown over the last three years.
“When they come to us and ask for a $6,000 grant and they get it,” Cagle said. “Oh, my God. The joy on them is unbelievable.”
He mentioned a bird incubator purchased using a teacher grant.
“We’re on the second year of that,” Cagle said. “Look how far that one grant is going to go.”