ALBANY -- Chocolate, Champagne and a charitable cause come together on Feb. 9.

The fourth annual Chocolate and Champagne Gala at Northbrae Community Church, 941 Alameda Ave., will deliver the tasty goods as a fundraiser for the Albany Education Foundation and the Albany Community Foundation.

Tickets, which are $25 and available by calling the education foundation at 510-527-8476, include a complimentary glass of Champagne as well as a selection of desserts. Beer and wine will be available for sale. There will also be cheeses, fruits and coffee and tea.

A silent auction will have "dinner at restaurants, tickets at theaters, weekends at people's vacation homes," said Albany Education Foundation President Dianne McNenny. "One of the board members has a Miata so he's auctioning off a weekend with his Miata. We have family-oriented auction items like weekends at Disneyland."

McNenny said the event is the AEF's major benefit of the year, bringing in up to 25 percent of the foundation's funds.

Albany school board member Allan Maris, a former mayor, has been going around town selling tickets and is clearly a fan of the event.

"Oh yeah," he said. "They get some really good chocolate. They get some chocolate brownies that are incredible. We've got some gourmet beer. You're supposed to have already broken your New Year's resolutions."


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Peggy McQuaid said the Albany Education Foundation provides many of the benefits to the Albany School District teachers that used to be taken for granted and continue to set the district apart among its counterparts in the Bay Area.

"Mini grants and field trip grants and new teacher grants," she said. "And we just bought a bassoon for the music department."

McNenny explained that the group raises money in the first part of the year to distribute as grants in the fall. The foundation takes grant applications from individual teachers rather than from the district.

"Teachers apply for a variety of enhancements for their classrooms and field trips," she said.

Assistance has included helping the Albany High girls volleyball team travel to the state championships, filling needs for school libraries, buying a snake for a classroom, visits to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, visiting lecturers, equipment at the high school, instruments for the band.

"It's the teachers' decisions. These are teacher priorities," McNenny said, adding that "The district should supply the basic needs of the classroom. This is above and beyond the basic needs."

Maris helped found the Albany Community Foundation and said the group has funded several amenities around Albany.

"The public information kiosk across from Safeway, we've done landscaping projects on Key Route," he said. "We've sponsored festivals, we've provided mental health interns at the high school. So just a lot of things for the community."

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