By Ross Markman
A solid oak plant stand, a big, white teddy bear and jewelry from the Far East are just a few of the items being auctioned Saturday night at the 17th annual "We Love MSU-Northern Ball" at the college's Student Union Building.
The event is hosted each year by Soroptimist International of Havre to raise money for scholarships awarded to nontraditional students. The ball includes cocktails at 6 p.m. followed by a choice prime rib or stuffed chicken dinner at 7. Tickets are $35.
The scholarships are "for those people who have been out in the work field for a number of years and haven't been able to find a job that has been satisfactory for them," said Ramona Lohse, the Soroptimists' service fund treasurer. "It's a wonderful project. We're talking about expanding it for students who graduate from Havre High."
The Havre Soroptimists have raised $89,000 since the ball's inception in 1986. A typical year brings in $5,000, Lohse said.
"Our best year, we raised $7,500," she added. "But we're shooting for $5,000."
The ball is usually attended by about 180 people. Lohse said she's hopeful to at least match that figure this year.
"The theme this year is Star Spangled Ball. We want to show support for the nation as well as the college," she said.
So do Havre businesses, Lohse said, many of which donate money to the cause or contribute items to the silent auction.
"We are well-supported by the businesses in the community. Without their support, we couldn't have a function like this," said Lohse, a Soroptimist since 1983.
Last year's auction included 203 items, plus about a dozen gourmet meals from noteworthy area cooks.
Lohse said she's uncertain if such gourmet selections will be included in this year's auction. What will be included, she said, are items from the organization's friendship link in Nara, Japan.
"We've been corresponding with them for 20 years. They always send us a box of things for the ball. They send makeup, jewelry and usually two or three kimonos," Lohse said. "People really are interested in them. We usually sell everything we get from Japan."
The auction will also feature original work by local artists, baskets filled with jams and jellies, and the jewelry of Lowell Jaeger, a silversmith from Bigfork.
The ball is the largest fund-raiser the Havre Soroptimists host each year. The 22-member group also runs a Havre home tour and a food booth at the Great Northern Fair to raise money for local facilities, including the Havre-Hill County Library and the Heritage Center.
"It's all for the community. That's the key," Lohse said. "We're a community-oriented organization."