By Doug Crise
18 years after the Minden Charity Classic began as a small idea between three local businessmen, Patrick Miller sat on a bench during a brief moment of calm outside the clubhouse of Pine Hills Country Club.
“You know, back then,” Miller said, “it was really very modest.”
It still is.
That sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? “Modest” doesn’t describe the annual cash outlay to those in need. The donated items up for auction are far from modest. As for the participants, let’s be honest – you don’t spring for these items, two days of golf and everything in between if you don’t have some disposable income.
Yet the Minden Charity Classic is refreshingly devoid of the egos, back-slapping and small-town gossip that usually comes attached when so many get together to open their wallets. Pretense? Consider that Minden Foundation President Andy Pendergrass – basically the man running the show – gave exactly one speech during the weekend. That was Friday, when he grabbed a microphone and said “hello, can you all hear me? We are so grateful that ya’ll are here. Dinner is served so I will bless the meal and we can eat.”
So much for grandstanding.
Title sponsor B1 Bank had some signage and logos on hats. Volunteers in coral-colored Minden Foundation t-shirts moved about, setting up tables and mingling with guests. Hugh Wood, inarguably the busiest cook in Minden, found time to step away from his many jobs to provide goodies for Friday’s auctions, including fried oysters worthy of their own write-up.
Everyone showed up, everyone donated in their own way and everyone good-naturedly complained about their golf rounds.
And everyone changed lives.
That’s a cliche, but even the worst cliches are rooted in truth. The truth is the Minden Charity Classic isn’t a matter of life or death for the people it helps, but it is a matter of being able to continue living life. It’s the difference between someone who can pay off medical expenses versus someone who survives a serious illness to face a lifetime of impossible debt. It’s the difference between repairs to a storm-damaged roof and a roof repaired for money that had been a child’s college fund.
The financial damage from catastrophe is like the worst kind of tattoo – it hurts and it stays. For many in Minden, the only thing standing between them and that lifetime of hurt are the people who gather for a weekend in early June.
And man oh man, do they make good use of their time.
Friday’s live auction is worth the admission just to spectate and read the list of items up for bid. A couple of fishing outings. Tickets to the PGA Colonial Open in Forth Worth (and we’re talking the good kind, with clubhouse passes and everything.) Expensive wines. Okay, lots of expensive wines. $1,000 for a night at Superior Steakhouse in Shreveport and – because why not? – a limo. A deep-pocketed grilling enthusiast could come away with a whole beef tenderloin and ribeye courtesy of Wood, a handmade walnut cutting board to prepare them on, and a Traeger wood-pellet grill to finish the job.
“Ace Hardware called us up,” Pendergrass said. “They wanted to know how they could help.”
“Help,” for those who aren’t into outdoor cooking, meant a wi-fi powered pellet grill with a built-in smoker and the ability to control the temperature down to the degree via a phone app. This is not spare inventory.
But that’s kind of the point – everybody involved gives new weight to the term “extra mile.”
Maybe the modesty from 18 years ago carries on because the event speaks for itself. You can’t understand the reach of the Charity Classic until you see what goes into it. Empty gestures are the common currency when disaster strikes. The Charity Classic answers that with real currency. Friday night, everyone bids. Saturday morning, after players and volunteers peel themselves out of bed before 6 a.m., everybody plays. Everybody over-tips. And after 12 hours under the Louisiana sun in June, everybody sticks around and bets.
A quick word on that: The post-round “Calcutta,” Saturday’s final event, gooses the competitive vibe among the golfers and shows just how creative the Minden Foundation will get to raise funds. As Foundation member Braley Raborn explains (patiently, for the uninitiated author,) Sunday’s golf flights are paired according to Saturday’s results. Bets on the final results between the next days pairings are taken. The golfers, basically, put their money where their clubs are.
Nice little novelty, right?
““There was $30,000 in the pot for the Calcutta” Pendergrass said. “Well, okay, actually it was only $29,500.”
Oh. Only $29,500. Never mind then.
When Sunday’s rounds end, a portion of the proceeds go to the top golfers. The Minden Foundation uses a small portion of funds raised to put on future events, including an October skeet-shooting event. The rest goes straight to those who need it most. And it’s not a “who you know” game. The Minden Foundation is in the business of helping strangers, nameless faces broadsided by life-altering crisis. With life in 2022 becoming increasingly territorial, the Minden Foundation isn’t concerned with skin color or church membership or political affiliation.
That was the first, and really only, cornerstone when the event was dreamed up 18 years ago.
“It was very vague,” Miller said.
Vague. Low-key. Modest. And a reach long enough to help anyone in this city.
The Minden Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that was founded by Mike Harper, Mike Woodard & John Collins in 2004. The mission of the organization is to help people in the Minden area when they have a sudden & catastrophic financial need such as a house fire, accident, or devastating diagnosis. The primary means by which the organization raises funds is the Minden Charity Classic golf tournament & auction which takes place the first weekend after Memorial Day each year and the MF Shoot Out skeet shoot every autumn. The current board of directors consists of eight members: Andy Pendergrass, Candi Wimberly, Kristin Utphall, Patrick Miller, Jason Ogwyn, Zach Goodman, Angela Fussell & Braley Raborn. To find out more, or fill out an application for a person in need, visit mindenfoundation.org