INDIANTOWN – Friday evening, Aug. 27, Ever After Farm was brimming with 200 or more guests as the Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Denim and Diamonds Gala, a fundraiser for the Nicholas Batchelor Memorial Scholarship Fund: Growing Up in Indiantown.
Cowboy hats, rhinestone-studded belts, boots and buckles, navigated among shimmering evening attire with nostalgic Edison bulbs and chandelier lighting overhead. Welcoming smiles and happy, hardy responses filled the room. The atmosphere reverberated with enthusiasm and joy as the guests poured in, neighbors greeting neighbors, uniting for a common cause.
Donna Carman, the scholarship fund's originator, said that when the opportunity to create a scholarship fund presented itself, she knew what needed to be done.
“I said I want to name it the Nicholas Batchelor Memorial Scholarship Fund – Growing up in Indiantown.” She continued that Nicholas was an outdoorsman even at age six and would have been the “current day ballplayer, fisherman and hunter. He was a vivacious little young man, an excellent blend of his parents, a sweet little boy,” said Carman.
She said her husband was the first contributor to the scholarship fund. She explained that during the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner in 2018, he donated all his tips as the bartender to the fund. Other chamber events have had similar donations. As a result, the fund started growing and the idea of a fundraising event targeting the “Growing Up in Indiantown” scholarship.
Carman continued, “We knew we needed to give the kids in Indiantown the opportunity of college or trade school. That’s what the scholarships are for.”
The 2020-2021 school year was the first time the memorial fund granted scholarships. Two $1500 scholarships, a $500 and a $250 scholarship, were presented to four Indiantown recipients.
Scholarship committee member, Tera Parsons, explained the criteria for scholarship application and the focus of being “Indiantown based.” Recipients have grown up in Indiantown, reside in the village, and attend a Martin County school. She indicated that grade point averages and volunteering in the Indiantown community also played a role in selecting recipients.
“Our initial scholarships were going to be one girl and one boy, $1500 each, but this year since COVID shut us down last year, we were able to give four,” said Parsons. “We’re hoping, especially with this event, that we’ll be able to up our money and give several more scholarships.”
Parsons also said that the scholarships are good at any Florida facility: a state college, a university, a technical or vocational school, or even a certification school. Parsons used the example of a truck driving certification indicating, “It’s career readiness or college because everybody’s not going to college.”
According to Anna Blake, the four-member scholarship committee wanted to do some sort of a fundraiser. Various names were tossed around until they decided on Denim and Diamonds. It fulfilled the original vision that Carman had of a country-themed event.
“Our view was an old barn where we could do a country-type gala because it’s Indiantown, and that would’ve been all that Nicholas was about,” said Blake. “We hope to raise a lot of money so we can give it to more than just two kids.” She added that increasing the amount or the number of recipients, possibly both, were things the committee would like to do in the future.
Blake continued, “Our goal is to have something like this, a Denim and Diamonds every year, maybe try different venues, but that’s our goal.” She added, “This is a big deal. It’s the biggest thing the Indiantown Chamber of Commerce has done outside of the rodeo, specific(ally) to scholarships.” Blake reiterated the committee’s desire to continue the fundraiser on an annual basis.
According to the Chamber of Commerce’s Missy Wilhoit, the event was “an absolute success.” The funding raising Friday far exceeded the scholarship committees’ expectations. They plan to meet and discuss changes in award amounts and the number of scholarships for the 2021/2022 school year.
According to Parsons, interested students should watch the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation for Scholarships, the South Fork High School websites for application information.