Heaven Sent?

Before you rent a Seeing Eye dog to cope with Houston Post gossip columnist Betsy Parish's ubiquitous blind items, let us provide a significantly enhanced version of a mysterious paragraph that appeared in her February 17 offering.

Parish wrote cheekily of an unidentified board of directors of an unnamed institution "seeing red" over the "disappointing financial results" of an unspecified fundraising event and the subsequent explanation letter sent by the unidentified organizers. Those unidentified attendees who shelled out for the gala event might be interested in learning that such expensive fun yielded so little money for a worthy cause.

The event was Heaven Sent IV, staged late last year by public relations and special events mavens Becca Cason and Holly Moore. The worthy cause it benefited was Arbor Preschool in Spring Branch, which cares for disabled children up to the age of five. The main underwriter for the event was the owners of Highland Village Shopping Center.

After spending $113,253.14 on entertainment and production, and bringing in $118,593.95 in income, Cason and Moore wrote to Arbor Preschool's Jeanine Bird late last month with an explanation of how the event panned out financially.

Their letter opens on a cheery note -- "The New Year is here and we have finally finished the accounting for the 1994 Heaven Sent Gala" -- before quickly heading south. "Unfortunately, after deducting the solicited underwriting, raffle proceeds and donations ($11,536) which you received, the event did not make a profit and shows a loss of $6,195. In order that Arbor receive funds above and beyond the proceeds guaranteed by our agreement, Highland Village has generously agreed to increase its contribution from $25,000 to $35,360.14."

Cason and Moore then inform Bird that since she "originally received credit card proceeds for ticket sales and the auction it is necessary that you return $9,895 to be applied against expenses. After all the expenses are paid Highland Village will forward a check to you in the amount of $3,464 ...."

And then comes the good news.
"Fortunately," write Cason and Moore, "the bottom line of all this is Arbor will receive $15,000 from the event plus valuable publicity and exposure."

Not content to leave it at that, Cason and Moore went on to point their fingers at Arbor for the seemingly scrimpy funds the benefit raised: "Obviously, all of us wish the final proceeds were more significant; however, as we discussed at many meetings before the event, the Arbor board was responsible for soliciting underwriting, all of which would have gone to Arbor. Unfortunately, very little underwriting was solicited. Ticket sales were also partially the responsibility of the board and event chair couples and unfortunately projections in this area were not met either, as you know."

And as we know from reading the attached financial statements, $5,000 of the Highland Village contribution was credited in free rent for Cason and Moore's business, located in the center. (Moore explains that she and her partner received a partial fee upfront for organizing the event but took the remainder in free rent.)

Arbor's Bird denies the school is angry with Cason and Moore and says it's still hashing over the results of the fundraiser with the pair. And she worries that bad publicity about the gala will undermine her efforts to help handicapped preschoolers. Wayne Smith, a member of the school's board, calls reports that Arbor's directors are upset over the episode "unfounded and without merit."

According to Moore, Heaven Sent is an event staged primarily to promote the Christmas season at Highland Village, and Arbor "did not have to put in a penny, they are a beneficiary."

When first contacted about the item in Parish's column, Moore did seem blissfully unaware of any discontent over the fundraiser. "I read Betsy this morning and I had no idea that's what [she was] talking about," she professed. "[Otherwise] I wouldn't be in such a good mood right now!"

In other words, Betsy's items are sometimes so blind that even the people they're written about can't recognize them.


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