City & Government, Creswell, Here to Help

Mayor’s Ball shines for Armory fundraiser

The 17-piece Blue Skies Big Band of Eugene plays classic swing music for guests of the Mayor’s Ball to dance to. CODY WARREN/THE CHRONICLE

COTTAGE GROVE – Twinkling lights against black curtains, gold stars hanging from the armory ceiling and blue-white stars decorating the stage truly made the Mayor’s Ball on Oct. 12 as ”Timeless as the Stars,” as community members donned suits and gowns to participate in a fundraiser for the Armory to finish restoration.
”Tonight we celebrate and support one of the most important historic buildings in Cottage Grove,” Mayor Jeff Gowing said at the start of the event.
This was the fourth annual Mayor’s Ball, sponsored by Paktech, and it was a night full of community giving. Along with the auctions, raffles and paddle raising, there was a special presentation given by keynote speaker, Mary Jennings ”M.J.” Hegar with music by Jewel Tones and the Blue Skies Big Band.
”Each October, we gather here at the Armory to recall the contributions this beautiful building has made to the past and present of our community, and we look forward to a prosperous future for our historic downtown that includes a beautiful, functional and active armory,” Gowing said.
The Armory was constructed in 1931 for the Oregon National Guard, but over the years has served a different purpose as a community hub. Since the City’s purchase of the Armory in 2009, restoration efforts have included the removal of lead paint from its exterior stairs; painting and a new stage set; construction of main-level restrooms; and the ongoing restoration of the Art Deco exterior.
As of that evening, however, the City had officially paid off the Armory’s mortgage. To celebrate, Gowing and City Manager Richard Meyers shredded the last bill.
”The Armory is now 100% owned by the citizens of Cottage Grove,” Gowing said.
Special guests of the evening included: a representative of Senator Ron Wyden; Senators James Manning and Floyd Prozanski; East Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch; former mayors Jim Gilroy, Darrel Williams, Bill Whiteman and Gary Williams; Kerry Brainard, who represented the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Rivers; vice chair of the South Lane School District Board, Sherry Duerst-Higgins; SLSD superintendent, Dr. Larry Sullivan; and South Lane County Fire and Rescue Fire Chief John Wooten, Division Chief Joe Raade and Division Chief and Fire Marshal Danny Solesbee.
The fundraising started off with a paddle raise, which were gifts from the community to the Armory. The Stewart Family Foundation gifted $25,000, and around 40 individuals donated gifts at various levels.
Many of the fundraising efforts included games, such as Jerry’s Heads or Tails, where community members paid $25 to flip a coin in hopes of winning a Jerry’s gift certificate. Earlier, a Silent Auction took place, and Live Auction included a wine tour, Jason Mraz tickets, a TV, an experience in Victoria, B.C., rafting, an Arizona getaway, grills and more.
Even dessert was an opportunity to give to the Armory; whichever table donated the most for dessert would have the first opportunity to snag one of the many treats available for the table.
After the fundraising portion, keynote speaker Hegar gave a presentation. Earlier in the evening, Hegar was signing copies of her book, ”Shoot Like a Girl,” and all proceeds from her book that evening went to help the Armory.
Hegar, who was a National Guard Pilot, told the story of how she received a Purple Heart for a wound she sustained while protecting her crew from enemy fire. While injured, she strapped herself to the skids of a helicopter and returned enemy fire during a Combat Search and Rescue mission in Afghanistan. She details the experience more in her book, and a movie will also be coming out about Hegar’s experiences.
Mary Kingston, chief executive officer for PeaceHealth Oregon Network, introduced Hegar and called her a ”superwoman taking multitasking to a new level.”
Hegar said that she ”wanted to be Han Solo” growing up and how much her experience in the military meant to her. She later went on to challenge the Armed Forces’ combat exclusion policy for women and ran for Congress in her home district. At the end of her presentation she showed a photo of her two children and said, ”This is why I do what I do.”
After Hegar’s speech, the night’s festivities concluded with dancing to the Blue Skies Big Band, which specializes in music from the 1920s-’40s, and the bluesy Jewel Tones, capturing and reflecting the timelessness of the Armory and evening itself.



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