The History of St. Catherine Sweepstakes
The year was 1982 and St. Catherine’s School really needed a Kindergarten program. Father Dan Derry the Pastor, Sister Paula the school principal, Sister Maria and the school board: Frank Delisle, George Chiala, Sean McLaughlin, and Bob Nunes decided the best way to raise funds quickly was to raffle off a brand new red Corvette!
The new Corvette’s were in hot demand and Frank found one in Los Angeles. He went down to LA, bought the Vette and drove it back to Morgan Hill to be auctioned off to the lucky winner. Tickets were $100.00 and only 500 tickets would be sold. Ticket sales were off to a slow start, but once that shiny red Corvette showed up and was displayed at the Masses, tickets sold quickly and the raffle was a success!
After the success of the first year where all the proceeds went to the school, Father Dan directed that it be turned into a Parish Fundraiser and said that the school could have 25% of the proceeds and that's what is still happening today. The marketing strategy in the early years was that they would sell tickets in front of Safeway, ACE Hardware and Nob Hill and hang flyers up in stores around town advertising the raffle as well as after Masses on the weekends.
In talking with Bob Nunes’ he remembers a few funny stories of the early raffle days....”George and he were selling tickets in front of Nob Hill and it was really slow, passing out flyers and just letting people know about the raffle. Late afternoon George gets this idea that he and Bob should go into the Morgan Hill tavern and let them know about a Corvette they could win! So they take a handful of flyers into the tavern and approach several people sitting at the bar. It was going well until George told them the tickets for the Corvette were $100 per ticket. That quenched whatever enthusiasm there was as the bar patrons realized how much booze they could buy with $100. They sort of had to back out of there gracefully!”
Another funny story that Bob shared was about a coworker of his at IBM. “He called Bob and wanted $10,000 in tickets for the car raffle. He had received an inheritance and was trying to cut down on taxes by donating to the car raffle. Of course Bob complied, but his tax problem became even bigger when he actually won!”
The first year the committee did not use computers to track tickets, Sister Paula had a notebook with all the ticket numbers written down and names filled out manually. Starting the second year they used a computer with a software program that Bob wrote in a class he was taking for IBM. The program was written in Basic. They used that for a couple of years until commercial software became available to track and record the tickets. Through the years, the committee has adapted to new technologies to sell and track ticket sales, so much has changed, but so much has stayed the same too!
The Raffle became very successful and an additional sports car was added on a separate ticket; a brand new Mustang!. Soon after a Vacation Raffle Ticket was offered to attract more people into the sweepstakes. Bonus Bundles and Early Bird ticket sales helped create new opportunities for parishioner’s and community members to increase their opportunities to win these great prizes.
The Sweepstakes Committee changes prizes with the times. With the popularity of SUV’s the drawing offered a band new full size sports utility vehicle or cash in lieu of the SUV. The committee connected with various travel agencies in the area to create “trips of a lifetime” that many lucky winners enjoyed over the years. Laptops, Drones, bikes and iPads and more importantly, cash have been added as prizes through the years to create more winners each year.
In addition, the day of the drawing became an event in December that everyone looks forward to. The school staff hosts a smorgasbord of great food and beverages for everyone to enjoy before the drawing takes place. Committee members contact the Morgan Hill business community and find great prizes that are offerings as door prizes. All the children who attend the auction also get a treat from Santa. It’s become its own tradition for kicking off the Holiday’s for many parish families.
After almost 4 decades, the St Catherine’s Sweepstakes is still an annual event that has raised millions of dollars for both the church and the school. Each fall it is something our St. Catherine’s community looks forward to with anticipation and excitement. Each year someone wins a new car, a vacation or any of the other great prizes, but as George Chiala use to say, “we all win” as the proceeds of the sweepstakes help support the operating costs of both the school and church. We are sure that the team back in 1982 had a vision……it is a vision that lives on today and into the future!