Oracle Schools Foundation – January 2024

Celebrations for a Cause

Sponsors Sue and Chris Mobley, Mary Jo and Barry Swartzberg, and Teresa and Terry Joyce

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

What do a Tequila Tasting and an event called Starry, Starry Night have in common? They both were fundraisers for the Oracle Schools Foundation and were part of the fixed-price items offered at the March 2023 Oracle Schools Foundation Gala.

Twenty-two fixed-price items were offered at the well-attended Gala. A fixed-price item is an event or a “hands-on” opportunity that is offered at a set price. Besides the Tequila Tasting and the Starry, Starry Night fixed-price events, there were hosted, home-themed dinners and house concerts, among other offerings.

Tequila Tasting

Sponsors: Ken and Mary Riemersma, Mark and Judy Goodrich, and Barry and Mary Jo Swartzberg

The Tequila Tasting event was held at the lovely home of Ken and Mary Riemersma. Twenty individuals attended the event to hear Mark Goodrich, SaddleBrooke resident and tequila aficionado, give his PowerPoint presentation about tequila. Mark is a student of agave culture and has had the honor of speaking with and attending presentations by author and ethnobiologist Gary Paul Nabhan, research social scientist emeritus and expert in agave spirits.

Mark discussed the regions in Mexico where tequila is produced and highlighted the many nuances of tequila (e.g., levels of taste, aging, complexity, and cost).

Several categories of tequila were offered for tasting during the evening, and the tequilas were paired with an array of outstanding appetizers prepared by Mary Riemersma. At the end of the evening, the unfinished tequila bottles were offered for purchase to the attendees. All proceeds benefited the Oracle Schools Foundation. Thank you to Ken and Mary Riemersma, as well as Mark and Judy Goodrich, for all of their hard work in pulling off such a wonderful event!

Factoid from Mark: 100% agave tequila may be one of the most undervalued commodities today, given it can take 12 to 20 years from plant growth to store shelf.

Starry, Starry Night

The Starry, Starry Night event was to be held on Nov. 16, but cloudy skies prohibited any viewing of the night skies, so the event was rescheduled for Nov. 20.

The evening was conducted by Chris Mobley, an amateur astronomer. Also on hand was Terry Joyce (also an amateur astronomer) who presented the educational aspects of our heavens, which included an overview of the planets, stars, constellations, and formations that were going to be viewed that evening. Two other amateur astronomers, also longtime members of SaddleBrooke Skygazers, assisted with the viewing of the heavens through professional telescopes and binoculars.

Delicious appetizers and desserts were provided by Sue Mobley and Teresa Joyce. Thank you to Chris and Sue Mobley, as well as Terry and Teresa Joyce, for all of their hard work in ensuring that the stargazing evening was so successful!

Factoid from Terry: The nearest star to us (Alpha Centauri) is about 32 trillion miles away. The light that we see left the star four and a half years ago.

Mark Your Calendar for the Oracle Schools Foundation Gala on March 10.

A Taste of Spain in SaddleBrooke

Ann and Nile Vernon and Ron and Pat Andrea

Ann Vernon

Eight attendees at the 2023 Oracle Schools Foundation Gala/Auction were excited to find that they could savor the delicious flavors of Spanish food without having to leave the Brooke! Nile Vernon, who spent many summers in Spain and picked up cooking tips from various families he stayed with while teaching in a graduate program, was assisted in food preparation by Ann Vernon and Pat and Ron Andrea.

As you may know, tapas are a signature feature of Spanish cuisine, and you can find these succulent morsels of food in bars, bodegas, and tascas throughout the country. One of the most famous tapas is the tortilla de patatas, which is essentially an egg and potato omelet cut into bite-size pieces and served cold or at room temperature. Along with the tortilla, guests enjoyed several other typical tapas as they sipped on Sangria. Next, they were served a typical soup, cream of garbanzo with ham cracklings, which was followed by paella. Paella is perhaps the most renowned Spanish dish of all. It is cooked in a shallow pan, which was introduced by the Romans, and essentially is an amalgamation of rice and tasty morsels of meats, seafood, vegetables, and saffron. Nearly every region in Spain has its own version of paella, and the only common denominator is the rice! Guests at the Vernon house could choose from seafood paella or paella with pork, chicken, and chorizo. Everyone saved room for dessert, which was bread pudding with a whisky and caramel sauce.

This dinner was just one of the 22 fixed-price events offered at the 2023 Gala. This year’s event will take place on March 10 at the MountainView ballroom, and we hope to have more dinners such as this one, but we need your help! We know there are good cooks and hosts in this community, so please contact me at [email protected] if you will help us by hosting a dinner, a cocktail party, or an event of some sort.

Please check the website for more information about the Spring Fling Gala, which raises money to support preschool and other worthy educational projects at Mountain Vista School in Oracle. Also, save the date for the Tributaries Benefit Concert on April 10 at DesertView.

Smart Strategies—A Win/Win for OSF

It is the new year, and do you need to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) in 2024? Would you prefer not to pay income taxes on your RMD? There is a Smart Tax Strategy that reduces your income taxes while helping a local charity—the Oracle Schools Foundation (OSF). Of course, you should always consult with your tax advisor.

When you receive your RMD or any distribution from your IRA account, you pay income taxes on it. However, if you make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) directly from your IRA to the charity, you do not pay any income taxes on that distribution. Of course, you cannot claim the donation on your income taxes; however, you are also not paying any income taxes on that distribution.

So, it is a win/win. You pay less income taxes, and the charity receives the donation.

A Qualified Charitable Distribution is a distribution from your IRA to a qualified charity. You must be age 70-1/2 or older to make a Qualified Charitable Distribution. A QCD is not taxed. If you are 73 or older, QCDs also can count toward your annual RMD from your IRA.

OSF is a 501(c)(3) organization and a QCD for this type of distribution from your IRA. Do not be confused with AZ Qualified Charitable Organizations. This is a federal tax benefit.

OSF is the fundraising arm for the Oracle Schools. Donations primarily fund the free Kinder Prep (preschool) for three- and four-year-old children of the Oracle vicinity. Did you know that over 65% of the students in the school system receive free or reduced breakfast and lunches? Donations help fund Kinder Prep but also other vital programs for students at Mountain Vista School (

To make a QCD to the Oracle Schools Foundation, have your IRA trustee send a check directly to Oracle Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 8863, Catalina, AZ 85738. In compliance with IRS guidelines, no goods or services are provided in exchange for the donation. It will not be placed in a donor-advised fund nor given to a supporting organization.

Key Takeaways

• Donations must go to a qualified charity.

• Donations must come directly from the Individual Retirement Account through your trustee to the charity. You cannot withdraw the funds and make the donation directly.

• Maximum annual QCD limit is $100,000.

• QCD cannot be claimed as an itemized charitable deduction on your taxes.

• IRA owners must be age 70-1/2 or older to make a tax-free charitable contribution.

• Those who are 73+ years old can transfer up to $100,000 per year directly from an IRA to an eligible charity as their RMD without paying income tax on the transaction. The amount of the QCD cannot be more than the amount of the distribution that would count as income.

As aforementioned, always confirm with your tax advisor. Thank you!

The Top Ten Reasons to Not Miss the Spring Gala

Ann Vernon

Mark Sunday, March 10, on your calendar now! You won’t want to miss the Oracle Schools Foundation (OSF) Spring Fling Gala/Auction because:

1. The Foundation supports the Kinder Prep (preschool) program in Oracle, and you believe that early childhood education is the key to success later in life.

2. You agree with and want to support the OSF’s commitment to help fund preschool and other educational programs at the Mountain Vista School in Oracle.

3. You want to support kids at Mountain Vista School by bidding on some great silent auction items: soups to go, made-to-order desserts, sewing alterations, airport transportation, gift cards to local restaurants, and much more!

4. You want to sign up for fun, fixed-price events: a bread-making class, theme dinners, house concerts with appetizers and drinks, and much more!

5. You want to bid on some awesome live auction items: an authentic Greek dinner, a Mount Lemmon getaway, a mystery dinner, and more!

6. You want to have fun—it’s a Gala!

7. You want to eat great food that you don’t have to cook—your choice of salmon, steak, or vegetarian.

8. You want to connect with other OSF supporters.

9. You want to get out of the house—have something to look forward to!

10. But most importantly, you want to make a difference in kids’ lives!

To register, go to our website

Become a Champion of the OSF by attending the Gala! It promises to be a great event for a wonderful cause. You can also support OSF by attending the Tributaries Benefit Concert on April 10. Tickets will be on sale at DesertView.