From Beans & Jeans to Auction & Gala, School’s Largest Fundraiser Started 38 Years Ago in Gym

Posted in Alumni News
ACS AUCTION 2019 (218)

by Tara Gilligan Reimer

Every successful Catholic fundraiser probably started in a school gymnasium or church basement.

The Growing Great Kids Auction & Gala, Assumption Catholic School’s largest fundraiser, is no different. Each year, hundreds of school families, faculty, alumni, parishioners, and community members raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, to benefit Assumption Catholic School. At this year’s celebration, many will also raise their glasses to what started it all.

“Beans & Jeans,” said Courtney Twining, 2020 Auction & Gala Co-chair, married to alumnus Matthew Twining. “I just keep thinking, I can’t believe our biggest fundraiser of the year started with baked beans and blue jeans in our school gym.”

Begun 38 years ago, in 1982, Beans & Jeans was a fun event in the Assumption Catholic School (ACS) gym with a live band and a “cowboy” feel to it, recounted Phoebe Vanderboom, ACS alumna and former, beloved school office manager. Good, old-fashioned, home cooking was on the menu: chicken, barbecue ribs, coleslaw, cornbread, and the event-title food-hook, baked beans. Attendees dressed casually, in their favorite denim-jeans, and enjoyed a live country-western band, who played the era’s hits, like covers of Alabama’s “Mountain Music” and Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.”

In 2000, 20 years ago, the auction upticked to gala and was still celebrated in the school gym. “It took a lot more work to transform the gym into an elegant venue,” laughed Vanderboom.

The event moved to the Best Western Lakeway Inn in 2004, and the “Growing Great Kids” theme was introduced in 2006. For the past four years, the Auction & Gala has been at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club.

“What I love is that the Auction & Gala still bears the original intent of its Beans & Jeans history,” said Jen Sheafor, 2020 Auction & Gala Co-chair. “This is one of our community’s only fundraisers that welcomes newcomers and generations of attendees.” Sheafor emphasized that many attend pre-gala for only $35, enjoy complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and bid on amazing silent auction items.

Twining elaborated, saying hundreds of supporters move from the silent auction into the ballroom for another sold-out dinner and gala, to continue fundraising, thanks to the talents of live auctioneer, ACS alumnus Jeff Ziels. Ziels’ live-auction talent and long-time connection with school supporters inspire fierce bidding and heartfelt donations.

While fundraising and celebration perfectly pair together, Principal Dan Anderson spoke about what is at the root of the event, the faith. “Our Catholic faith impels us to remember what comes before us. At this celebration, we also remember past generations of families and faculty and religious who have made this school possible.”

Sarah Robinson is a member of one such heritage family, three generations who have attended ACS. Fittingly the alumni coordinator for the school, Robinson said, “Now, we want you to share your memories!” Do you have photos or stories from this year’s Auction & Gala or the original Beans & Jeans celebration? Please share at

Original Beans & Jeans individual givers have been listed below. We want to applaud everyone who helped make this year’s Growing Great Kids Auction & Gala a complete success and who keep Catholic education affordable and accessible in Whatcom County.

And we want to applaud those who still inspire, the folks who started it all, in a school gymnasium, a half-generation ago.


Beans & Jeans Individual Supporters, 1995-1999

Larry and Jan Ziels

John Martin

Mark Asmundson

Dorothy Kleihege

Roger and Jeanine Kennedy

Zuanich Family + Peter and Kris, Peter and Marie

Bill and Kay Ziels

David and Heidi Elder

Kathy A. Stambaugh, D.D.S.

Peter Arkison

Leo and Tammy Hammer

Dan McGreevy

Clark and Kathy Bergman

Terry and Pam Thomson

Mike and Karen Reed

John Daly

Spink Family

Jim and Maggie Erhardt