Comet Gala raises $55,000


The West Liberty Community School District’s athletic complex project wouldn’t be a reality if it weren’t for the donors.

To celebrate this, the Comet Gala was held Saturday, March 4, at the West Liberty Community Center.

The evening wasn’t only a celebration but also had silent and live auction items for an additional fundraising push. The live auction and silent auction would raise $55,000 that evening alone.

West Liberty Community School District Athletic Director Adam Loria started the evening off telling everyone it was a special night.

“Less than a year ago, on March 29, 2022, we met in the high school auditorium kicking off a fundraising campaign with the lofty goal of raising $2 million to help improve our athletic facilities,” Loria said.

He announced $1,950,000 was raised so far for the athletic complex to a round of cheers and applause in the room. He thanked several different groups including the Board of Education members, the fundraising committee members and Lisa Wertzbaugher.

“Lisa came to our second meeting and let me talk for about the first 10 minutes but that was more than enough time for her to realize that we needed more help,” Loria said.

She took over and got the fundraising to where it was now, he added.

“So Lisa, on behalf of Superintendent (Shaun) Kruger and the West Liberty Community School District I want to thank you for your countless hours, hard work and dedication to this project for helping to make this all happen,” Loria said.

Loria went on to name everyone who donated to the athletic project so far. He then invited West Liberty Foods Chief Executive Officer and President Brandon Achen to speak. West Liberty Foods donated $500,000 to the athletic complex project.

“This is us,” Achen said. “We’re owned by farmers. Farmers care about community. It’s really important. I’m from a farm myself and community is the most important thing to us. Honestly, it was the easiest $500,000 the board ever approved.”

He asked everyone to continue to invest in the community and not stop with the athletic complex.

“Let’s continue to build upon what we’ve started here,” Achen said. “I think it’s really important, it’s really exciting and let’s continue to grow with each other.”

The next person to speak was West Liberty Chamber of Commerce Director Charles Brooke. He helped coordinate the Comet Gala, is a member of the community and a graduate of the West Liberty Community School District.

When he was asked to help with the event, Brooke said all he heard was his grandfather telling him “You’re the future.” He thanked his board members and gala committee for helping to get things done for Saturday night.

Brooke announced in between getting things done for the gala Saturday night, he interviewed 15 students at West Liberty High School to be a part of the chamber’s youth board.

“I could not be more proud of this school system and where these students want to take themselves in the future,” Brooke said.

Four students were selected to be a part of the chamber of commerce’s youth board, he added. He mentioned the busy year the chamber will have in 2023 and thanked everyone for their support.

West Liberty Community School District Superintendent Shaun Kruger was the final speaker that evening.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by compassionate action of its members,” Kruger said. “That’s a quote by Coretta Scott King. To me this quote sums up our fundraising efforts over the past year and the generosity of all of you.”

Kruger also announced two additional donations of a $100,000 each. Those donations were from the West Liberty Community School Foundation and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Foundation.

He said the support has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. This will benefit the students for several generations.

Besides the athletic complex, the school district and community have invested in several capital projects including the new transportation building, the addition of the fifth grade wing at the middle school, the pre-kindergarten building and the kindergarten remodel, Kruger said. Groundwork for the athletic complex has been completed and the above groundwork will begin soon.

“As you can tell, the commitment from the community and the school district to support not only our academics but facilities is second to none,” Kruger said. “We will have some of the best facilities in the State of Iowa.”

He said the school district would never rest or stop improving because the student’s futures depended on it.

The evening ended with a live auction.

Monday, Brooke announced $55,000 was raised at the Comet Gala.

I thought it was great,” said West Liberty Chamber of Commerce Director Charles Brooke. “Very well attended and the energy was very positive the whole night.”

The money raised that evening will be split between the Chamber of Commerce and the school district.

Kruger thanked everyone who worked on the Comet Gala during the West Liberty Board of Education meeting Monday, March 6.

“The gala was a success,” Kruger said. “We raised around $55,000 for the chamber and the school. It was a great event and awesome to see community support of both organizations so thank you to all the gala organizers and to all those who attended to help make this event a success.”