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Inside hangar of Five Rivers Aviation.

If you’re wondering whether you’re invited, you are.

“Anyone who is interested in supporting our awesome school district may attend,” said Realtor Barbara Benotto. “The atmosphere will be fun and energetic.”

Benotto is the chair of the 3rd annual “REAL (Real Estate Alliance of Livermore) Annual Backpack Auction,” which takes place on the morning of Thursday, July 18, at the main hangar of Five Rivers Aviation, 700 Terminal Circle, at the Livermore Airport.

“Part of the purpose of REAL is to raise funds and give back to our community,” said Benotto. “Three years ago, we partnered with the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District to raise funds for programs that might need our help. This year, funds raised will go to support ‘So Wise So Young.’”

So Wise So Young is an in-school literacy program that focuses on helping students increase their language skills, comprehend key details in a text, improve their expression of ideas through drama, develop imagination, and relate key themes in Shakespeare’s work to their own lives. The 10-week, 2nd-grade program introduces students to William Shakespeare and his history, and actively explores themes using A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Katie Marcel, managing director of Livermore Shakes, said, “We are so moved that the real estate community values the performing arts and literacy enough to choose this program. Recently, I was touched when a teacher shared with me that one of her students struggled all year — until the Shakespeare program. The student's mother had shared that her son loved the program so much that he looked forward to going to school on Fridays – Shakespeare Day. Thanks to REAL, we are able to continue to reach those students.”

Added Benotto, “When we found out that this year there was a funding shortfall, we wanted to step in and help. Not only does this program instill a love of Shakespeare at an early age, but it helps with reading, team work and public speaking. It's a wonderful program.”

There are several ways for those interested to get involved: they may fill backpacks with school supplies to be donated to the district; auction attendees may bid on items like lunch for four with Livermore Mayor John Marchand, a ride in an antique biplane, or a catered private party for 25 at a local winery; and they may purchase raffle tickets for $100, with the winner (announced prior to the start of the auction) having first choice of any of the auction items (excluding the ride on the biplane).

“The average value of auction items is $1,000, so spending $100 is a pretty good deal,” Benotto said. “We are expecting about 150 people, and 100% of the proceeds goes to LVJUSD.”

The first auction REAL hosted provided gift cards to every first-time teacher in the district to purchase supplies for their classrooms, and last year REAL set up a reading program for kindergarten through 3rd-grade students at Jackson Avenue Elementary School.

“Along with raising funds to start a supplemental reading program last year, we also started a volunteer program. I was one of those volunteers,” Benotto said. “I witnessed firsthand how our input affected the lives of children who needed a little extra help with reading. It was thrilling and oh, so gratifying to witness the transformation of these kids! That is exactly why we do what we do.”

The Real Estate Alliance of Livermore is an association of Realtors, title companies, lenders, and all affiliates of the real estate market. REAL usually meets at the First Street Ale House, with around 100 members attending weekly meetings.

“It's an opportunity to network, promote any upcoming listings, and learn more about our real estate community,” said Benotto. “The REAL Annual Backpack Auction takes place during our regular meeting time, but instead of a guest speaker, we’ll have the auction. Breakfast and networking are from 8 to 8:30 a.m., and the meeting and auction are from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Last year we raised $14,000; this year, our goal is to raise $20,000. It’s a big goal, but I know we can do it!”

For the youths and community of Livermore, the efforts are much appreciated.

“We were not only thrilled, but relieved to learn So Wise So Young would be this year’s recipient — making it possible for all 2nd-grade classes in Livermore to experience the program,” said Marcel. “REAL’s partnership is invaluable as we share the same mission: enhancing the quality of life for our community and our neighbors. We at Livermore Shakes consider the real estate community to be our front line in promoting all that is wonderful about Livermore.”

To learn more about the auction, email barbara@barbarabenotto.com; to learn more about So Wise So Young, visit livermoreshakes.org.