Just when the Benicia Education Foundation (BEF) was looking for more ways to raise money to enhance students’ experience in Benicia schools, members learned how other school district organizations were offering their communities the chance to shop while enjoying a glass of wine.


For the first time, Benicians and visitors will be able to shop for holiday gifts and décor while being entertained. BEF sponsors the event, November 30, at the historic Clock Tower building in the Benicia Arsenal. “May 5 is the Run for Education, and it’s pretty successful, but that’s all we had,” said BEF President Neeley Silberman. “We have high hopes of attracting people who want the opportunity to do holiday shopping. The BEF is motivated. Without its help, Benicia students’ outdoor education could be eliminated, and some art opportunities could be curtailed or lost,” Silberman said.


Founded in 1981 by concerned parents and reorganized in 2005, the BEF helps all children in Benicia’s seven public schools. Through fundraising, the foundation provides trips to places where children get hands-on learning. Some trips bring California history to life for fourth graders, who pan for gold in Coloma where they get a taste of the experience of Gold Rush prospectors. Then they celebrate with a hoedown or spend an evening near a campfire. Other excursions let them become naturalists, learning about wildlife in forests and waterways and the importance of protecting the environment.


Just as important, the children have to unplug. They don’t use their electronic devices on these trips. “They get to see the cooking and how hard it was. They participate in team bonding activities and ‘blind trust’ walks,” Silberman said. “They get outside their comfort zone. This brings learning to life in a way that it can’t be done in a classroom.”

Other programs help middle and high school educational programs.


Another beneficiary of the foundation is the arts in public schools. “’Arts’ is a pretty broad term,” she said, ranging from painting and graphic arts to music to performances.

Teachers can apply for foundation grants, which usually are granted to projects that reach the most students or which show innovative teaching methods or materials.


Benicia Education Foundation also underwrites a STEAM wheel elective, a $50,000 project that rotates among schools’ third, fourth and fifth graders who get to learn about robotics, chess, dance, drama, computers, LEGO construction, drawing and other elements of the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) program. For that, the foundation gets help from Valero Benicia Refinery, but still has to match the Valero contributions.


The foundation is getting help for its Sip-N-Stroll, too, Silberman said. “Curtis A. Reed and Samuel L. Thompson of Farmers Insurance is our signature sponsor, and Mountain Mike’s Pizza is on board to help us out. It’s gathering momentum.” Those buying tickets to the event will arrive and receive a glass of wine or sparkling cider. 30 vendors will be on hand with a full array of items. “They’ll be selling all kinds of things,” Silberman said, including clothing, jewelry, candles, gift items or larger pieces. Additional glasses of wine and cider will be available for purchase, as will food items, she said.


The Clock Tower is a fine venue for such a shopping adventure, Silberman said. “It’s a widely recognized landmark in the Arsenal. Not only is it easy to find, it also has plenty of parking. It’s the biggest venue in town.” Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets, $20 per person, 21 and older only. Admission at the door can be made with cash or by check or charge.

The Benicia Education Foundation Sip-N-Stroll
Friday, Nov. 30, 4-8pm
Benicia Clock Tower, 1189 Washington Street