21st Pine Peace Auction Raises Record Amount of Money for GHS

GHS teacher Katie Zaytoun and Liz Putnam display a quilt made by GHS students, which sold for $800 during the auction.


A record-shattering $160,000 was raised for the Gifft Hill School at the 21st Annual Pine Peace Auction on Saturday evening, March 3, at the Westin ballroom.

The school brought in nearly $50,000 more than last year’s auction, according to auction committee chairwoman Beth Jones.


Arthur Jones with wife Beth.

“Last year, when we raised $111,000, was our biggest year, so this was way bigger,” said Jones. “(Committee chairwoman) Lori (Barlas) and I felt like if everything went well, we’d make about $130,000.”

The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour and silent auction, featuring items including pieces of art by Phyllis Biddle, GHS Head Ben Biddle’s mother, among others, and furniture from Close Reach Imports.


GHS Head Ben Biddle and wife Downing.

Dedication of School Field
As guests streamed into the Westin ballroom, GHS Head Biddle took the podium to thank the crowd and everyone who supports the private school.

“This evening is dedicated to (outgoing GHS founders) Scott Crawford and Sabrina Boebert,” said Biddle. “I don’t know what hard work is if they don’t represent it.”


Sabrina Boebert and Scott Crawford.

Biddle also announced the naming of the school’s field after Westin Regional Manager Graeme Davis and his wife, Abigail Davis, who donated the sod and the manpower for the project.


Janet Cook-Rutnik and Andrew Rutnik.

Guests then enjoyed dinner served by Westin while auctioneer George Blackhall kept the high bids rolling in for luxurious packages, featuring everything from art to vacations to jewelry.

The auction also featured, for the first time, Internet proxy bidding.

Alex Riviera Video
A large portion of the money raised during the evening — $31,000 — was brought in after the audience viewed a video by Steve Simonsen featuring GHS graduate Alex Riviera, who was so determined to attend the school that he worked to pay his tuition, which was also paid in part by the GHS scholarship fund.

“After that video, we asked everyone who wants to donate $1,000 to the school’s scholarship fund to stand up,” said Jones. “We got 31 people to do that.”

Jones credited Simonsen with putting a face on the school’s students.


Margaret and Pretlow Majette.

“We definitely have to thank him,” said Jones. “The reason we did so well is because he’s a genius with his editing and telling the story. There really are kids at the school whose parents are making tremendous sacrifices, or the students themselves are, because they so want to be there.”

“I think the video really made people realize they could change a child’s life with money that may not seem significant to them,” Jones added.

$21,000 for Anguilla Package
The second biggest package was a four day, three night stay at the St. Regis Temenos Villas in Anguilla, which went for $21,000.

“I was totally blown away,” said Jones. “We were so far above our expectations that I’m just so excited. I thought it was fun, and we raised money, so that’s two good things.”



Auctioneer George Blackhall.

The tremendous support of GHS at the auction will provide opportunities for St. John children who want to attend the school, explained Biddle.

“It was a wonderful night,” he said. “The high tally means much more scholarship money — and therefore opportunity — for the children of St. John, while the great spirit of the event shows a community increasingly excited about what we are doing here at Gifft Hill School.”


GHS supporters Shelley and Rik Blyth.

“Overwhelming Quality”
Jones thanked many of the people involved in making the Pine Peace Auction a success.

“I have to thank Lori Barlas for sure, and the Westin, who is the sponsor of the evening,” said Jones. “Caneel gave us tons of really nice packages, and Gail Siart did the Web site for free, which was a ton of work; Catered To and R&I Patton gave us significant contributions to help get us going. We also have to thank the artists and the people who donated items for the auction, the people who were bidding, the volunteers — just everybody,”

“Pretty much every facet of St. John was represented,” Jones continued. “It was overwhelming to see the quality of what we get from this tiny island.”