Second Chance prom-goers relive past to improve present

Nonprofit raises thousands with dance-themed benefit
Sep. 10, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

The hosts of Saturday night's Second Chance Prom were shy of their fundraising target at the end of the night, but ultimately, they said they had fun while also helping local students.

Communities in Schools of Lee County debuted the prom this year to replace its former large annual fundraiser, Dancing with the Lee County Stars. The group's Executive Director, Heather Little, previously said the former event had waned in popularity and donations.

Little said Monday that she hadn't done an official count yet, but she thought the prom probably raised about $15,000. She said she had been hoping for at least twice as much but still was pleased with the outcome considering this was its first year.

Hopefully, Little added, word of mouth will spread — leading to more donors and volunteers in the future.

"It's definitely not what we were hoping for, but I think the night was successful for us," Little said. "... At the end of the night, we were literally having to kick people out of the [Dennis A. Wicker] Civic Center. Nobody wanted to go home, so that's always a good thing."

In addition to dancing the night away, revelers at Saturday's prom also honored Margaret Murchison and Jim Murray, who were crowned prom queen and king after raising the most money through $5 votes.

Murchison, news director at Sanford's WFJA/WWGP radio station, beat competitors Deanna Gibson, Candace Norris, Rebecca Wyhof, Nejla DeLambert, Dana Atkins and Anna Lucas to become queen. Murray, associate director of production operations at Sanford's Pfizer plant, beat competitors Mark Kline, Mike Thomas, Chris DeLambert, David Caplan, Tim Hair and Ed Page to become king.

Murray couldn't be reached for comment on his victory. Murchison said it was the first time she's been queen of anything — and that she wasn't anticipating that she'd win this contest, either — so she's been practicing a fancy wave to suit her new title.

"It was fun; it was a great event — I just wish more people had come," she said, although she added that any amount of money is helpful considering the work that Communities in Schools does, such as giving low-income children backpacks full of food to take home every Friday, since they might not otherwise get a meal until they return to school on Monday.

"When I think of a little kid who might not be able to eat on the weekend, it just makes me swear that if I ever win the lottery, I'm giving it for that," said Murchison, a former Lee County Board of Education member.

Jeff Brown, who works with Murray at Pfizer as operations management and planning manager, and also serves as vice chairman of the Communities in Schools board of directors, said he was proud of co-worker for winning and thought the event as a whole went nicely.

"It was great, lots of fun," Brown said. "... I know Jim was very excited to be the prom king. He worked hard for it."

Brown added that Pfizer was represented by about a dozen people at the event, but that helping with the fundraiser was only part of what the company does to help Communities in Schools. He said many employees also use their lunch break to visit J.R. Ingram Elementary School, talking with and mentoring students in a program called Lunch Buddies.

"We've gotten some really great feedback from the kids, the teachers," he said. "It's very hands-on, and a good way to get involved and change lives."

Through Lunch Buddies and other similar programs, Communities in Schools focuses on lowering the drop-out rate by bringing stability to students from low-income families through mentoring, food for the weekend, birthday parties and more.

The organization will be staging a large food collection drive in late October, Little said. On Monday, she added, she learned that it has been named a lead agency for the 2014 Global Youth Service Week, which will be in mid-April.

"We're going to be looking for some youth organizations that we can actually give out some money to, to help do work around the community," she said.

People who want to learn more about Communities in Schools can go to http://leecountync.communitiesinschools.org or contact the office, located at 211 S. Steele Street, at (919) 718-5426.