By Cara L. Dempski
DOWNING — It takes skill for a bartender to sell a customer a beer and then talk that person into purchasing a paper pumpkin to go with it.
Fortunately for the staff at the Pump House Bar and Grill in Downing, it is a skill they all possess. The bar staff asked customers for donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospitals, and in return, the customers could write their names on paper pumpkins to decorate the bar.
By the time the October money-raising effort finished, the staff and customers at the Pump House had raised a total of $2,102 for the cause.
Bartender Laurie Stewart said she was approached with the fundraiser by Chris Steinbach, who works for Bill’s Distributing in Menomonie. The pumpkins sold were part of an annual fundraiser from Coors, and Steinbach initially asked her to raise approximately $150.
“I wanted to decorate with them,” Stewart said. “So, I pushed them, but it was a group effort. Everyone was on board to fill the bar with pumpkins.”
Stewart had a special reason for wanting to raise money for the hospitals helping children with childhood illnesses and cancer: she is a cancer survivor herself. That, for her, was plenty of incentive to make sure the Pump House raised as much as possible.
“I know it goes 100 percent to them,” Stewart explained. “That really was enough for me. You just need to talk to people (to get donations), that’s all it takes.”
Steinbach said the people at Bill’s ask certain accounts for assistance in raising money each year. This year, the Pump House was one of the businesses on his list.
The salesman said he initially dropped off the first pad of pumpkin donation sheets at the bar on Wednesday, October 4 around 1:30 p.m. Less than eight hours later, he got a phone call from the business’ owner, Andy Dahl, asking for more.
The Pump House had already raised nearly $500 in that time.
In the end, the bartender and her coworkers were one of the highest-earning businesses in the region.
Matt Dragseth, the Bill’s Distributing employee collecting the funds to be sent to St. Jude, said he is still receiving donation totals, but the distribution group raised nearly $6,000 this year. Last year’s total for all the businesses involved was $3,164.
That makes Stewart’s efforts, and those of her coworkers, that much more impressive.
“The big thing at the Pump House, is Laurie really got behind it,” Dragseth finished. “She sold the heck out of those things.”