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SEQUIM — The threat of spreading the coronavirus is shutting down a long-standing community gardening event.
The Gala Garden Show, Soroptimist International of Sequim’s largest annual fundraiser, has been canceled because of concern of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, the organization announced this week.
“It is a huge loss, and it is a loss in our hearts, because it’s something we’ve been so committed to,” said Cat Xander, Gala Garden Show public relations representative, on Friday, March 6.
Soroptimist International of Sequim is part of a global volunteer organization that “provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment.”
The 22nd-annual event was scheduled for March 21-22 at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club and had 50 monetary or in-kind sponsors supporting it.
“We did this out of an abundance of caution to the community,” Xander said. “It was a really hard decision; it took a lot of discussion.”
Members decided not to postpone the event because of the uncertainty of the length of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We don’t know when this is going be resolved,” Xander said.
“[The show] was ready to go; everything was done except decorating the Boys & Girls Club.”
The Gala Garden Show started in 1999 with a one-day show and about two-dozen vendors.
There were about 45 vendors on tap for this year’s show, she said.
“I feel badly for the vendors; we can refund their money but this was income they were counting on,” she said. “And (I feel badly for) the community; they find certain people and things (at the show).”
Xander said this was Soroptimist International of Sequim’s top fundraiser, drawing between $21,00-$26,000 each year — about two-third of the group’s budget. It brings in more than double of the group’s Gala Gift Show in December, she said.
Funds raised go to help 10 community groups such as Boys & Girls Club, Sequim Food Bank and Healthy Families of Clallam County, its medical loan closet and several scholarships.
The group distributed about $7,000-$8,000 in scholarships every year for high school students, continuing education applicants and the Live Your Dream scholarship.
“We will do that somehow,” Xander said.
Group members are considering other fundraising ideas, Xander said — possibly an online auction that would “not endanger everybody and make things worse,” she said.
Soroptimist supporters can still make a donation through www.sisequim.org.