Wednesday, July 9, 2008

AT&T golf tournament pays off for Bethesda-based charity

Volunteers man tents to raise money for nonprofit

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Among the concession tents sponsored by Michelob, Grey Goose, Morton’s Steakhouse and AT&T at last week’s AT&T National golf tournament in Bethesda was an army of volunteers ready to fight for those others forgot.

Lacking the glitz and glamour of some other tents, the National Center for Children and Families, a Bethesda nonprofit that helps vulnerable families, organized more than 600 volunteers over five days to help sell beverages and food, with a percentage of the profits going back to the center.

‘‘It’s not just about the money,” said NCCF Director of Advocacy Steffi Benjamin. ‘‘This helps us get our name and issues out into the community.”

The center ran three tents across the course, and each featured a sign stating a brief message about NCCF’s mission, and that NCCF would receive a portion of the proceeds from total concession sales at the tournament.

This was the second year for the tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods and held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. More than 107,000 fans flocked to the club over the course of the five-day event.

The goal for the weekend was to raise $35,000, according to Heather Buckman-Ricks, who coordinated the event for NCCF. The group won’t know how much money it actually made until the catering company finishes accounting, she said.

The volunteer-concession relationship is common, according to Julie Welsh, a concession manager from Prom Management Inc., the company in charge of concessions for the tournament.

‘‘We couldn’t do this, staffing-wise, without the volunteers,” she said Saturday at one of the tents. ‘‘Plus, it’s our way of giving back to the community.”

Welsh said the Minnesota company brings about 30 staffers to each of the 35 or so PGA Tour events the company provides food for each year. The rest of the crew—hundreds of people at every event—is all volunteers.

The money raised by food and beverage sales, plus all tips received by NCCF volunteers, goes toward the construction of NCCF’s Freddie Mac Foundation Youth Activity Center at NCCF’s Greentree Shelter in Bethesda.

The center will begin construction this fall and will feature a gymnasium, arts center and cafeteria.

Volunteers came from all over the area: high school students looking for student service learning hours, groups organized by area companies, including Marriott and Pepco, and just everyday folks who wanted to help a cause.

Buckman-Ricks said she filled 620 six- or eight-hour shifts throughout the course of the six-day tournament.

Branden Kerr, a 14-year-old from Montgomery Village, came with his mother, Karen, to volunteer Saturday morning.

Karen Kerr helped organize more than 20 employees from Marriott to volunteer at the tournament, and Branden tagged along to grab some service hours for school.

But Branden, who plays on the Watkins Mill High School golf team, isn’t an ordinary volunteer. He’s attempting to dedicate more than 1,000 hours of his time during his four years in high school, more than 10 times the 75 hours needed for graduation in Montgomery County.

The rising sophomore already has volunteered 310 hours through trips to New Orleans and cleanups in Washington, D.C., and added another 24 hours over three days at the tournament.

‘‘I’m trying to get a scholarship so I can go to college,” he said. ‘‘One of the things they look for is being a volunteer.”

Kinslow Bailey of Silver Spring said a friend of hers volunteers at NCCF, and told her about the opportunity.

‘‘To be here at the seventh hole and get to see all the players and support a cause, this really makes me feel good,” she said.

‘‘People know when they put money in the tip jar where it’s going,” Buckman-Ricks said. ‘‘And it will really help a lot of kids.”