Martin Elementary Junior Beta Club adviser Brad Buffkin was scrolling through Facebook last spring when he saw a post about a fundraising opportunity. 

Buffalo Trace Distillery in Franklin, KY, was giving away 400 commemorative bottles from their sixth million barrel of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to help nonprofit organizations raise money.

“He plugged in the Beta Club’s name, never thinking in a million years they’d be drawn,” Director of Schools Janet Graham told the Cumberland County Board of Education during its Aug. 22 meeting. “Lo and behold, they got drawn out. The challenge is, how do we do it?”

The school system hasn’t dealt with similar situations and Graham and Teresa Boston, 8th District representative and chairman of the board, added the item to the board agenda for consideration. 

Buffkin said, “This comes around about every 10 years.”

The barrel was aged 10 years and 11 months and bottled, with 400 375ml glass bottles. Each bottle has a handwritten description and includes a hardwood box with a piece of the barrel and brochure explaining the significance of the commemorative bottle. 

The company hopes the bottles raise $500,000 for charitable causes. Other nonprofit organizations selected include the Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nashville Public Television, Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kingsport and JDRF of Knoxville, which supports research and advocacy for type 1 diabetes. 

Buffkin said, “They will ship the bottles in the next month or so, and we have until the end of the year to auction it.”

The company wants a report by February how much the group raises. 

Graham said the school system was not in the business of running an auction. The club reached out to the community to find a partner to handle the sale of the bottle. Greg and Kim Tabor of Tabor’s Pawn and Tabor’s Furniture in Crossville had agreed to display the commemorative set and host the auction at no cost to the school system. 

The Junior Beta Club would receive all the money raised. 

“They [Buffalo Trace] just posted a list of recipients, but we’ve had two emails already from people wanting to know when and where to bid,” Buffkin said. 

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, moved to approve the fundraiser, supported by Jim Inman, 1st District representative. 

Robert Safdie, 2nd District representative, said he couldn’t support the fundraiser for the school system. 

“I just don’t feel we should be promoting the use of alcohol as a school-sponsored event,” Safdie said. “On a personal basis…I would probably think that was a wonderful gift for a family member. But I just don’t feel comfortable with it.”

Voting in favor were Stone, Inman, Boston and Shirley Parris, 3rd District representative. Voting against were Safdie; Tony Brock, 5th District representative; Tom Netherton, 6th District representative; and Rebecca Hamby, 7th District representative. Stace Karge, 9th District representative, had attempted to attend the meeting via Skype while out of town on business, but bad weather at her location led her to disconnect at the beginning of the meeting.

With the vote tied, the motion failed.

Stone said he believed the matter could be brought up next month when all nine board members are present.

“I hate we’re denying their group $1,200,” he said. “We take money from other endeavors. While they may not be alcohol-related, there are places that give us money that we accept that sell alcohol on their premises.” 

Boston noted the school system also receives a portion of the mixed drink tax collected in the city and county.

Inman said the auction was for a commemorative item. 

“It’s actually not even supposed to be drank,” Inman said. “I don’t see this as promoting alcohol. I see this as a commemorative box that somebody’s going to put on a shelf somewhere.”

Stone said he would feel differently if students were involved in the auction or were selling chances to win the bottle.

“That’s all been taken out of our hands. The only part that the school or club plays in this situation is they’re going to receive the benefit of the money. That’s why I have no problem supporting this,” Stone said. “The Tabors will do all the leg work, and the club is getting $1,200 or whatever it brings.”

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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