2006 Ramstein Welfare Bazaar

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

Record amount raised for scholarships and grants

***image1***It was 1965 and a group of 11 volunteers from the Ramstein Officers’ Wives Club organized a little bazaar at the community center. They raised $5,000 for college scholarships.

In their wildest dreams they could not have known that 42 years later that little bazaar would become an international marketplace with hundreds of vendors from around the world. And, their idea for a scholarship fundraiser would today generate more than $300,000 to help college-bound students and support a variety of groups and organizations throughout the KMC.

The 2006 Ramstein Welfare Bazaar was the biggest, with more vendors than ever, more customers than ever and raised the most money to date  − $318,000 for scholarships and welfare grants. And while the event takes one year to plan, 1,200 volunteers and 17,000 volunteer hours to pull off, its organizers said it’s just plain fun.

“You have moments when it can be hairy,” said Janice Speer, Ramstein Welfare Bazaar chairwoman. “But, for the most part, we had so much fun − everyone pitched in.”

In December, Ramstein Officers’ Spouses Club members celebrated their record fundraising. The bazaar, the largest military bazaar in Europe, is co-produced by the club and 435th Services.

***image2***Over the next year, club members will award $76,000 in scholarships to college-bound high school graduates and spouses going back to school for undergraduate degrees. They will review hundreds of applications from organizations such as the KMC First Sergeants Association and the Fisher House, and award $240,592 in grants to help the clubs and organizations provide services to the community or their units.

“Our goal is to spend all the money every year,” said Kathy Bailey, bazaar committee member.

Planning for the annual bazaar, held in September, begins in January. A committee of roughly 30 sifts through the hundreds of vendor applications, choosing those with high-quality products and a good sales record.

“Ramstein is where the vendors want to be,” said Mrs. Speer.

In 2006, vendors did not go home disappointed, or empty-handed. A Korean vendor, who brought 110 antique furniture pieces to the bazaar, sold every one of them. All told, there was $2.3 million in sales.

For the bazaar committee, working on the four-day event is like running a large business. The committee oversees six major contracts for such things as plumbing and electricity and it takes about one week to set up before the first of 137 vendors from England, Spain, Poland, Russia and Korea roll in. The Ramstein Welfare Bazaar has an operating budget of $200,000, with about $20,000 spent on the six major contracts.

***image3*** “It’s such an enormous undertaking,” Mrs. Speer said.

Each year, the bazaar gets a little bigger, with more vendors and more money raised. In 2005, the bazaar generated enough money to award five extra grants to the Landstuhl Fisher House, the local USO at the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, the local American Red Cross, KMC First Sergeants Association and Air Force Aid Society. In 2006, more than 23,000 shoppers attended the four-day event that takes over Hangar 1 on the Ramstein flightline.

“They knew it was a for a good cause, that they were contributing something vital to the community,” said Mrs. Bailey.

•For more information about applying for scholarships and welfare grants

                                           visit www.ramsteinosc.org.

By the numbers
2006 Ramstein Welfare Bazaar

Vendors: 137
Food vendors: 22
Shoppers: 23,000
Volunteers: 1,200
Volunteer hours: 17,100
Scholarship and welfare grant money raised: $318,000