Despite a pandemic-induced cancellation for the second straight year, Southwestern Community College’s “Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling” gala raised more than $80,000 to support student scholarships.

Originally scheduled for the second Saturday in September, the event was to be held at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

“It was extremely disappointing to cancel our gala again, but we have a remarkably loyal and generous group of supporters who believe in changing lives,” said Don Tomas, SCC president. “The vast majority of our table sponsors told us to keep the money in support of our students. It really is quite humbling to realize we raised almost twice as much money for students this year as we did at our first gala (2014). On behalf of our students, we are extremely grateful to everyone who supports this effort.”

The annual gala has raised more than $530,000 since the inaugural event in Cashiers – including more than $120,000 in combined donations the past two years that the pandemic has forced cancellations.

All proceeds support students who might otherwise not be able to attend college.

“Next year, we are going to be back – and it’s going to be a bigger and better gala than ever,” said Wendy LeMay, who serves as the gala planning committee’s co-chair along with SCC Board of Trustees Chairman Lambert Wilson.

“We are deeply grateful to have a dedicated group of people who support us every single year, either through attending, volunteering, sponsoring tables or donating wine or silent auction items, ” Wilson said. “I personally cannot wait until we can get together again in person.”

Among this year’s scholarship recipients is Andrew Eastep, a student in Southwestern’s Physical Therapist Assistant program.

“This scholarship is wildly important for the continuation of my education,” said Eastep, who received the Daniel May Finish Line Scholarship. “The pandemic brought financial insecurity and hardship, but this scholarship will ease the financial burden that comes along with studying for a new career.”

For more information about the SCC Foundation and its efforts to support student scholarships at Southwestern, contact Kathy Posey at 339-4227 or k_posey@SouthwesternCC.edu.