‘Mane Event’ Helps fill Coffers for Bay Area Homeless Shelter; Wadzinski roasted

By David Taylor

He was a good sport— for the most part—as friends and acquaintances lobbed a few good-natured insults and jokes at the expense of Jim Wadzinski all in the name of raising funds for the Bay Area Homeless Shelter on Feb. 24 at the Hyatt Regency in Baytown.

The Mane Event 2024 famously hosts the dinner, live auction, and roasts an area celebrity to raise funds for maintenance and operation costs of the ministry at 3406 Wisconsin Street in Baytown.

Bill Eckert, executive director for BAHS, was thrilled with the outcome.

“I’ve been here since 2012 and we’ve been doing this every year. This was the most beautiful venue,” he said. “We were so impressed the staff at the hotel who was really responsive to our needs and helped us put on the best one so far.”

Eckert didn’t have a final number on how much was raised because the total involved a combination of things.

“We had a very successful live auction, and the silent auction totals won’t come in for a few days. We also have the donations for the beautiful flowers on the tables and we won’t know till later how many scanned the QR code on the tables to make donations,” he said.

Despite not having the exact numbers, Eckert felt like it was the best fundraiser they have held since his coming.

“It will be a record-setting year for us,” he said proudly.

One of the tables front and center was decorated with a black tablecloth and a rose. Next to it was a photo of former Baytown mayor, the late Pete Alfaro who helped the floundering shelter when they were in financial need.

Wadzinski took a ribbing on the love for his Green Bay Packers. He was born and raised in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin where he studied Theater Performance and Business Administration.

Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Dr. Randle O’Brien salivated returning the favor to Wadzinski after O’Brien was subject to the ridicule last year.

“We all know Jim supports public education because he named his son Sterling,” O’Brien said. “He shouldn’t have stopped there. He could have named his other son Robert E. Lee instead of Sean, or Charisse could have been named Goose,” he joked.

One of the surprises of the night came when Wadzinski’s hero, former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, made a cameo appearance via video courtesy of roaster Robin McDougald from Baytown Theater.

“I’ve heard you have a tendency to cheat at golf and you pre-cast your shows at the theater,” Favre said to the laughter of the audience.

From retired police chief Keith Dougherty, a golf ringer that always seems to end up on Jim’s team to help him allegedly win more trophies:

“He forgot to unblock my phone calls when I was chasing him down on an open warrant for hunting a Hodag out of season,” Dougherty laughed while he was trying to call him back to agree to roast him at the event.

Jim’s boss at Community Auto Group, Roger Elswick, opined Wadzinski’s collection of community awards.

“I just want you to think about how much these awards have cost me, and not one of them has my name on them! All these items and awards should be company awards,” he joked with Wadzinski.

The funds raised at The Mane Event are used to take care of the daily expenses including salaries, supplies, food, and miscellaneous expenses that arise.

“We have a capital campaign that’s underway as well to tear down two old buildings and install two state-of-the-art facilities to replace them,” he said.

Those funds are separate from the Mane Event fundraiser.

As a facility that operates 24/7 and 365 days each year, Eckert said this fundraiser was key to maintaining the viability of their work.

The executive director said that donations have been down, and he blames the state of the economy.

“The economy has a lot to do with it. Nationally, the philanthropic community has shifted their focus. Homeless shelters are not exactly on the top of everybody’s list of things to support,” he said.

Eckert said the shelter services a huge area of 2,100 square miles in east Harris County that includes Baytown, Channelview, Galena Park, Jacinto City, up to Crosby, and most of Chambers County.

“It’s difficult. Most people when they leave work can shut out the lights out and walk out for a day off. We can’t do that,” he said. It’s a lot of shifts, and often overworked employees.

Master of Ceremonies Steve Don Carlos, former mayor of Baytown, urged the community to invest into the shelter.

“Our mission is different from most other homeless shelters,” he explained. “We don’t just provide a bed and a roof and food for folks. We give out what I like to call a hand up, not a handout. When families, men or women come into the homeless shelter, they are given financial counseling, we help them to find a job, out of their checks we will hold some until we have saved enough for them to get their own home or their own apartment” he said, helping them make their own way and fulfilling their own dreams.

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