When all the tickets were tabulated and the auction money was counted, Kevin Young of Young’s Payless IGA Market was stunned to discover that this year’s Steak and Shrimp Fest fundraiser benefiting the local elementary school hadn’t just broken the previous year's record, it had blown it out of the water. “Last year we raised a record $18,400,” Young explains, “and we thought it would be unbelievable to break $20,000 this year. But we ended up raising a total net profit of $28,459.55 to support our local Copperopolis Elementary school.” In a small community with just 280 students in the K-6 school, that money goes a long way.
Young started this annual fundraiser 16 years ago as the Oyster and Steak Fest when he bought his third Young’s Payless IGA in Copperopolis, California. He was already hosting a golf event for the school near his first store in Lockeford, California, and a dinner event for the elementary school near his second store in nearby Pioneer. Continuing the tradition was a way for Young to introduce himself to a new community while supporting a cause he is passionate about. Although the seafood of choice has changed from oysters to shrimp over the years, the core objective of treating neighbors to a good time while helping community kids has remained the same.
Held on October 13th at Black Creek Community Hall, this year’s theme was “Denim and Diamonds,” which influenced both the décor and, for many, the wardrobes. The festivities kicked off at 5 p.m. with the sold-out crowd of 230 enjoying social hour, complete with a full bar manned by Young himself. At 6 p.m., guests queued up to have their plates heaped with shrimp, steak, baked potato, salad, and a dinner roll. After the plates were cleared away, the real fun—and the real fundraising—began.
Instead of your typical dessert bar, the Steak and Shrimp Fest featured a dessert auction. Eager to help the school, attendees quickly bid on plates of cookies up to $50 and cakes to $100. Winners took a treat for themselves before passing their bounty around to share with the rest of the group: “Everybody was having a great time, and this year’s group was particularly lively.”
The event also featured a raffle, silent auction, and live auction. Young said that one of the highlights of the evening was when he was barely outbid for a shotgun that ended up going for $1,750—to the man that donated the gun in the first place. Other auctioned items included fine wines, gift baskets, tickets, and overnight stays at nearby resort and area casinos.
While he spearheaded the event—including donating the food and beverages, buying supplies, cooking the food, and serving—Young is quick to give lots of credit to the people who helped make the event a success. He teams up with the PTA each year, who provide lots of assistance in procuring raffle items and selling tickets. Young has also worked with the same crew behind the grill for all 16 years, and Young’s Payless IGA employees lend a hand doing everything from cooking to serving and tending tables. Young's vendors even pitch in by donating some of the steaks and produce. “The coolest thing is that you get this group of 20 people that work on it for months and make it come together to help the school out. To raise that kind of money, we were just blown away,” Young notes of the donation, which in years' past has been used to fund everything from a 3D printer and new computers to playground equipment, field trips, and science camp.
When summing up the evening, Young said that every year the crowd gets more into it, the bar business increases, raffles and auctions grow, and everybody is assured to have a great time. If this trend continues, Young’s Payless IGA just may be presenting the kids at Copperopolis Elementary with another record-breaking check next year.
Young’s dedication to area kids doesn’t stop with those events. Starting last year, he got involved in a program through their distributor, C&S Wholesale, that gives out backpacks filled with kid-friendly food to children who live in food-insecure households. The idea is to help low-income kids have something to eat through the weekend, when they don’t have access to free breakfast and lunch at school.
The way the program usually works is C&S sells the bags to the store at minimum cost and then retailers have customers buy them to donate to the school or local nonprofit for distribution. Instead of being the middleman, Young found out how many kids attend the local elementary school and bought a backpack filled with nonperishable, IGA-branded food for each one of them. He gave out the bags during a school assembly, accompanied by the IGA tiger mascot.
“I found out there is a lot of hunger in our small communities, a lot of needy kids out there,” he said. “Now it’s going to be an annual thing. Plus the kids get excited because they get a cool backpack. It’s fun to see.”
With three stores in Northern California and three generations of community commitment to uphold, giving back has become second nature to IGA Retailer Kevin Young. See how the Young’s Payless annual IGA Steak and Shrimp Fest benefitting the PTA and the backpack program providing food insecure kids with food for the weekend have are helping this third-generation IGA retailer uphold his family’s century-long legacy of community commitment.
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