■ By Debbie Vena / Reporter
One of the nice things about living in an agricultural community, especially one that grows potatoes locally, is that you can call on them to donate to worthy causes, like Community Builders of San Jacinto does yearly when they set out to make a lot of potato salad for their Burger Bash.
Agri Empire, unofficially known in the valley as The Potato Shed, this year contributed to serve the side salad prepared by the school district kitchens for more than 400 of the best burgers you will find anywhere made from beef raised locally as well.
It is a unique tradition started decades ago, so long ago that no one officially remembers when the annual Burger Bash fundraiser actually began.
The fundraiser supports local children in the school district, which traditionally turned to their neighbors rather than taxpayers, to provide this fun event that provides perks for their kids. Perks like school ground equipment one year, books for the libraries the next and last year, more than $3,000 was raised and split between different grades for special projects.
The small gathering that originally started out as a group of teachers who expanded their ladies club at church has become what is now known as Community Builders. Now, they have the San Jacinto mayor supervising the BBQ on this special day where families gather together and eat in the cafeteria and share some fun and a famously supported raffle. All items on the raffle and white elephant tables are donated.
“I really enjoy this event; it’s nice to see everyone together. People get to visit with each other; it is about community as much as fundraising. No one is in a hurry, you get to visit with friends and see many people at once,” said Lynn Petersen in between moments as she volunteered at the Bash and later in the evening the Ramona Bowl at another event.
“Who doesn’t love doll houses?” asked Petersen as she described local nonprofit, Building the Way, which teaches young adults building skills. The program is directed by Louie Vega, who donates on average, one or two houses a year. This year the doll house looked like a wood cabin.
Col. Howard of San Jacinto R.O.T.C. brought in the troops for the first time this year as well and the kids did an amazing job, according to Petersen. Another organization that participated for the first time was the local Callejero’s (The Wanderer’s) Christian car club, which had a beautiful display at the front entrance as you arrived, and music to set the tone for the festivities inside.
If nothing else, this event truly embodies the thought behind the sentiment of so many who promote small local businesses and “Buy Local” campaigns, but even better because all the money raised stays right in the San Jacinto Unified School District.