The annual Mayor’s Education and Charity Ball is cancelled this year, but scholarships will still be given to students through the donations and organization’s reserves
In the May 19 Phenix City Council meeting, Mayor Eddie Lowe gave an update for the annual Mayor’s Ball. An article in The Citizenlast week quoted the mayor saying that the scholarships would come from the reserves. The Citizenwould like to clarify that the scholarships this year will come from the Mayor’s Education and Charity Ball Committee reserve fund, not the City of Phenix City’s reserve fund.
Lowe hopes to award scholarships to students on Aug. 6 at the Phenix City Amphitheater where social distance rules can be maintained. Donations are still needed for 2020 scholarships and can be as small as just one dollar. Donations can be sent to the Mayor’s Education & Charity Ball Committee, P.O. Box 2543, Phenix City, AL 36868. For more information, call 706-615-2272 or 706-888-4587.
More than $589, 127 has been raised since the program’s inception in 2014, gifting 140 kids with more than $209,000 in scholarships, more than $53,000 in dual enrollment for 90 kids, and has given more than $26,000 to nonprofit organizations in Phenix City. The event raised enough funds for $100,000 in endowments. The University of Alabama, Tuskegee University, Troy University, and Columbus State University each received a $25,000 endowment to help a local student attending each school. All of the universities receiving endowments match them 100 percent in perpetuity.
To say that Lowe is passionate about education is an understatement. Even before taking office, he and his wife, Deborah, wanted to find a substantial way to give back to the community. In 2014, they held the first Mayor’s Education and Charity Ball.
“The first year, not knowing how it was going to go, we had people in the community who said they would dress up in black tie and pay to come to an event,” Lowe said. “But then, I also had people saying it was all about me. I started to say ‘forget this’ because I didn’t want people saying that. It’s a distraction. If it weren’t for my pastor, Noble Williams, I would have scrapped it.”
But Lowe didn’t scrap it. He set the 2014 fundraising goal to $20,000. The first event, held at the Roy Martin Idle Hour Community Center, sold $65 individual tickets and exceeded expectations as generous community members dressed up and attended, donating a total of $37,500.
Due to the success of the event, the Lowes decided to do it again and set the bar higher for the next year—the more money raised, the more kids they could gift with scholarships. They more than doubled the fundraising goal to $50,000. Lowe did not expect that such a lofty goal would be reached, but the community proved that education and the kids really matter, coming through with $55,000.
“So, for the third year, in which there was an election, I said I want to raise $100,000,” Lowe said.
The whopping $106,000 raised surprised everyone, and people in the community sat up and took notice.
Soon, the organization received non-profit status and a committee was formed to oversee the finances and distribution. Its members aren’t in it for any money. They are unpaid volunteers, Lowe said.
Lowe said he and his committee face criticisms even today about money raised and how money is used. Some of that criticism even comes from retired educators, he explained. But doing things the right way is what Lowe bases his reputation on.
“Everything goes back to the community… working with honesty and integrity. When people start attacking you and you’re doing something good, that motivates me. I take this very serious because I love people,” Lowe said. Helping local kids is what he is passionate about.
Abigail V. Williams, a 2018 scholarship recipient, is in her sophomore year at Auburn University at Montgomery where she has made the Dean’s List as an accounting major, is Vice President of AUM’s Accounting Club, and holds a part-time job in the business office while maintaining an impressive GPA of 3.9.
“Thank you for believing in me and affording me the opportunity through your scholarship to attend Auburn University at Montgomery,” Williams wrote in a thank you letter sent to the mayor’s office this month. Lowe said students like Williams is why he works so hard.
“This always helps a kid from our school system,” Lowe said.
Of total funds raised, the committee’s bylaws allow 60 percent of funding go into scholarships, 20 percent is for dual enrollment, 10 percent goes to local nonprofit organizations, and 10 percent goes into reserves. The reserves are normally used to help defray costs for the next year’s event. In fact, people are giving money year around which are either billed to the reserve for defraying costs.
“As your expenses grow, you need to make sure that portion grows, too,” Lowe explained.
A portion of the reserves will be used for scholarships. Before the pandemic, Lowe sent out a letter to sponsors asking for donations; however, the event had to be cancelled due to the governor’s ‘Shelter in Place’ order.
In a letter sent to sponsors, Lowe wrote: “…as a former football player, I was taught that when things get tough, that is the time that we should give more of ourselves for the sake of the team. When we do this, it gives others the impression of how strong and very good we really are, individually as well as collectively…The Mayor’s Ball is an exceptional event to bring our communities together, which is highly important,” Lowe wrote. “By God’s Grace and Mercy, we are definitely looking forward to seeing you at the 2021 Mayor’s Ball.”