Shekinah cancels annual festival and benefit auction

(Posted Aug. 29, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

After a 39-year run, Shekinah Christian School in Plain City will no longer host its annual festival and benefit auction.

School leaders announced the festival’s cancellation to supporters and donors in a letter dated Aug. 26. The event traditionally took place the second weekend in September.

“While we know this news will be a disappointment to some, ultimately we feel it is the best decision for our school moving forward,” the letter stated.

Known as “The Biggest Little Festival in Ohio,” the event often drew more than 2,000 visitors to the school grounds on Lafayette-Plain City Road and featured crafts, an auction, children’s activities, music and food. It was the school’s largest fundraiser. The school serves students in grades K-12 and has an enrollment this year of 117.

Brice Kauffman, Shekinah’s administrator, said several factors contributed to the decision to cancel the festival.

The festival’s revenues varied from year to year, making budgeting difficult. Manpower also was an issue.

“Over the years, it became increasingly hard to fill so many volunteer roles,” Kauffman said. The festival required approximately 250 volunteers and year-round planning.

Additionally, legal counsel informed school leaders last year that their system of offering tuition breaks in exchange for volunteering at the festival could have negative tax implications for the school and for volunteers. The resulting change meant the school itself could no longer directly benefit financially from the festival.

The school’s changing demographics also played a part in the decision, Kauffman said. Whereas the student population once was primarily Mennonite, now students come from a large variety of churches and religious backgrounds.

“Shekinah is much, much different than it was 20 or 30 years ago… The culture has changed,” Kauffman said.

It is time for something new, he continued, and time to refocus on the school’s mission to inspire students, even in how the school goes about fundraising.

“It’s really sad to see something that’s been going on for 39 years come to an end. We know people are going to miss it,” Kauffman said.

Over the last few years, school leaders have been making changes to Shekinah’s tuition and financial aid systems to make finances more sustainable and predictable. Those changes will help to fill the void from the loss of the festival proceeds.

The school is looking at new ways to fill the remaining funding gap, as well as provide its families and students with new opportunities for fellowship and connection with the broader community.

“We plan to do some mini community events,” Kauffman said.

What form those events take is yet to be determined. Kauffman said announcements will be posted to the school’s webpage and Facebook page.

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