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Win a house, $100K, and help children learn English at Catholic school
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This house under construction in the Montaluce development in Dahlonega is being raffled off as a fundraiser for a Sandy Springs Catholic school. Shown is a view from one of the windows. - photo by Tom Reed

To buy raffle tickets or learn more about the school, go to www.solidarityschool.org.

DAHLONEGA — Raffles featuring everything from cars to sports memorabilia are popular fundraisers, but an Atlanta-area school is raffling off a Dahlonega home valued at more than $500,000, plus $100,000 cash.

Yes, you read correctly. A house. And money.

Montaluce Estates and Vineyards has teamed up with The Solidarity School to sponsor a unique fundraising event — a chance at winning one of Montaluce’s newly constructed villa homes and $100,000 cash.

The raffle is scheduled to be drawn on July 6, but may be changed to Labor Day. All proceeds from raffle tickets, which cost $50 each, will benefit The Solidarity School, located in Sandy Springs.

Many children cannot afford Catholic education, which is one of the reasons why The Solidarity School opened its doors in 2001. The preschool helps Hispanic children learn the basics in education to prepare them for kindergarten in a public or private school. The parishioners at Holy Spirit Catholic Church helped start the church and continue to provide support.

"We are in a population where many of the English-speaking children in schools are the minority," said Jamie Arthur, the head of The Solidarity School. "All of the research shows that if you start teaching students as young as 2 or 3, English will become the second language. Then, when they go into kindergarten, they truly are able to have the gift of education without tracking or special services."

The idea for the raffle, which has been licensed, was brought up early this year. Rob Beecham, one of the owners of Montaluce Estates and Vineyards, works with Garreth Genner, who suggested the school as a great charity. Genner is a strong supporter of the school.

"When we thought of this idea of doing a charity raffle, we talked with Garreth, and we believed that The Solidarity School was a great school to benefit from this project," said Beecham.

"They approached us, wanting to know if we’d be interested," said Arthur. "It was like a gift that we would have this opportunity. It was a win-win situation."

Beecham agrees, and he realizes that charitable donations are down right now because of the economy. "This is a unique way for a charitable group to still be able to raise money," said Beecham. "And there is still a benefit for the person who wins the prize."

The winner will be chosen on the day of the raffle at The Solidarity School.

"We plan to have a very big party that day," said Arthur. "If the winner is not there, we will call them or send them an e-mail."

The home, which is designed by Atlanta’s Harrison Design Associates, is located in the center of the Montaluce community in Dahlonega. It is valued at $595,000, and is equipped with three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms.

The 1,800-square-foot home features a gourmet kitchen and hand-hewn wooden floors. The house also has a courtyard with outdoor fireplace, a covered loggia off the kitchen and living area, and a terrace off the upstairs bedrooms.

"I have been up to Montaluce several times, and I think it’s absolutely beautiful," said Arthur, who said she would buy a ticket herself if she weren’t involved in the event.

"You may win a house and $100,000 for the $50 you spend, which is very encouraging," said Arthur. "If we sell 15,000 tickets, your chance at winning is better than winning the lottery."

Although it is appealing to win a beautiful house, organizers said this raffle is also a very important investment in helping Spanish-speaking children learn the English language in preparation for kindergarten.

Arthur believes that the raffle could yield an opportunity for the public school system to have some relief from the issue that they are facing with so many children not being able to speak English.

The Solidarity School is working hard to change this by teaching students at a young age.

"The dropout rate in Georgia is so high, and so somehow we have to get these children linked to school," said Arthur. "If they can be part of a regular class in kindergarten, where they’re challenged and have the ability to go through school without special services, it sets their path for future success."

In 2000, the dropout rate for all Hispanic 16-to-19-year-olds was 21.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While the home is the top prize, there are other items being given away.

Second prize, valued at $2,800, is a weekend for up to six people at Montaluce, including lodging in addition to lunch and dinner in the restaurant daily. Third prize, valued at $475, is dinner for two people at Montaluce and a case of inaugural Montaluce wines.

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