Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living Realtor Shirley Coomer also sponsors paper shredding events in the fall and spring to help the Kyrene Foundation.

For the eighth year, the Kyrene Foundation is hosting the Taste of Kyrene Auction and Reception.

But it’s bringing a few changes this year.

The Foundation, which helps schools and families in need within the Kyrene communities, and assists teachers and principals in the district’s 25 schools, has opted to offer a light dinner buffet catered by the Arizona Grand Resort rather than the usual array of Ahwatukee eateries whence the event got its name.

This is the first year that the event – 7 to 11 p.m. March 2 – will be held at the Arizona Grand, located north of Ahwatukee at 8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, off I-10.

The Taste of Kyrene is one of the Kyrene Foundation’s signature events, along with the Annual Kyrene Foundation Golf Classic, which is slated for June 1 at the Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass.

Kyrene Foundation Board president Shirley Coomer said the community’s support benefits programs that enrich families, teachers and principals, in the Kyrene school district.

“The Kyrene Foundation’s mission is to serve and provide resources for children and their families in the Kyrene community. We raise funds to provide these services through the generosity of the Kyrene community,” said Coomer, a 19-year Ahwatukee resident whose four boys attended Kyrene schools.

“These funds ensure all children in Kyrene schools have access to resources to assist with their basic needs such as food, hygiene items, school clothing for children, school supplies, enrichment scholarships. The Taste of Kyrene event is an opportunity to support the community while enjoying a fun evening of fundraising, dinner and socializing,” said Coomer, a board member for three years.

Coomer, a Realtor with Ahwatukee’s Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living, said Kyrene School District estimates there are currently 300 homeless students in the district – whether living in their cars, staying at extended stay hotels after losing their lease, or bunking with friends.

Though fewer in number than prior years, when Ahwatukee house repossessions were rampant, there are still too many, she said.

And some are those others know but may not be aware of their plight.

“At the Winter Wonderland (a December Kyrene Foundation Event that provides gifts for needy families),” Coomer said, “I personally knew two of the families who came through.

“People in the community are just trying to get their kids through school, and even though we’re considered an affluent area, there’s still a need for children to get food, clothes, backpacks so when they go to school, they can look like everyone else,” she said, adding:

“I think it’s important for the community to come to this Taste of Kyrene event because it’s something they can do that impacts the quality of life of their community.”

Coomer, along with K-W realtor Greg Stainton, is known for her sponsorship of the April and October Shred-a-thons that benefit the Kyrene Foundation’s Resource Center. For each box shredded, a donation of one can or box of food is collected.

Anna Sylvester, the parent of a Kyrene del Norte Dual Language Academy fourth grader, is a new volunteer, joining the Kyrene Foundation last year.

Sylvester is this year’s Taste of Kyrene chair.

“Over the last five years, I attended several Taste of Kyrene events, and became a volunteer last year. It was during this time that I discovered all the ways in which the Kyrene Foundation services and supports our Kyrene schools and families,” she said.

“I knew getting the word out on the Foundation was integral in bringing in support from our community. I wanted to help through my participation in this Taste event,” Coomer added.

Besides the cocktail-style reception, light dinner buffet, appetizer and dessert stations, the evening includes music and dancing, silent auction and the perennial favorite Wine Pull.

“The Wine Pull has 50 fantastic bottles of wine ranging from $10 to $100,” explained Kyrene Foundation board member Marjean Steinkamp. “Guests pull a numbered cork from a vase, and based on the number on the cork, receive a fantastic bottle of wine.”

“The Wine Pull has quickly sold out the last couple of years,” she said of the $20- donation-per-pull.

Sylvester added that another new opportunity at this year’s event is the Fund-a-Need feature. Similar to a live auction, guests can bid or make donation for the pre-selected levels of giving – $100, $250 or $500.

“While many guests may bid on items in the silent auction, not everyone wins. The Fund-a-Need allows every attendee to directly contribute to the Kyrene Foundation at different levels, and participate in the fundraising efforts. The donations are also 100 percent tax-deductible,” she said.

This year’s theme, “Education Matters!” will “highlight the importance of a full and rich education experience for children” and the vital roles the community plays to ensure that happens, said Sylvester.

“Parents matter, teachers matter, community matters and leaders matter. We all have an impact on making children matter. Investing in a child’s education and school experience gives each girl and boy the tools necessary to reach their potential and be successful,” she said.

Taste of Kyrene tickets are $65; $75 at the door. Reserved tables for 10 are available for $850 which includes 10 drink tickets.

To purchase tickets or for more information including sponsorship of the event or donations to the auction, visit TasteofKyrene.org

The Kyrene Foundation programs include the Kyrene Family Resource Center, located at 1330 E. Dava Drive in Tempe, which helps families who have a child enrolled with food boxes, gently used school clothes, new school supplies and hygiene items.

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon one Saturday a month, the Family Resource Center requires no appointments and there are no income requirements.

Among the many other Foundation programs is the presentation of the annual Principal Grant, and teacher and staff mini-grants. In the 2016-2017 school year, grants totaled nearly $18,000.

Athletic and Enrichment Scholarships for students also is a program of the Foundation. In addition, each year the Foundation awards 12 Slater-Newman Student Scholarships to outstanding eighth-graders who “go above and beyond” in community Service.

Each year, the Kyrene Foundation awards 12 Slater-Newman Student Scholarships, scholarships to outstanding eighth-grade students who go above and beyond in the area of community service. The scholarships are named after the two Kyrene employees who started the Kyrene Family Resource Center.

Other annual Kyrene Foundation programs include the summer Backpack Drive, Dress for School and Operation School Bell with the Assistant League of East Valley, Thanksgiving food boxes and the December Winter Wonderland.

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