by: David F. Ashton Revelers at the Shu Ren “Big Night Out” mingle at a pre-dinner cocktail party.

Moving from hosting an annual gala at a Chinese restaurant, this year, the Shu Ren board voted to hold a ''Big Night Out' Dinner and Dance' on March 9th at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel.

Members and friends of Shu Ren, the nonprofit organization that supports the Portland Public Schools Mandarin Immersion Program at the three Inner Southeast schools in the program - Woodstock Elementary School, Hosford Middle School, and Cleveland High School - took over the hotel's grand ballroom.

A silent auction occupied the brightly-lit east end of the ballroom; a sumptuous-looking buffet, and a dance floor and stage, completed the setting.

'My three children are all in the Mandarin Immersion Program in public schools,' said co-organizer and Shu Ren Treasurer Cain Christen.

'Both my wife and I know foreign languages,' Christen explained. 'I studied German, Japanese, and Spanish in college, and studied in Germany and Austria. My wife studied French, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Tibetan.'

Thanks to their strong community of volunteers, some 70 items were up for auction, and Christen told THE BEE they'd hoped to raise about $40,000.

Co-chair Sharon Garland added that 60 volunteers worked for up to a year to plan this event.

'I got involved in this event, because it's a way to keep it going and make the program grow and get stronger. I totally believe in it; I've been involved from the beginning until now. My oldest, she's a senior at Cleveland High School, and she is going on into the Chinese language program at the University of Oregon.'

It's important for parents chip in, Garland pointed out, because school budgets keep shrinking. 'The first batch of kids are now just graduating from high school. As long as parents come here and support Shu Ren, it will keep growing.'

A good portion of the money raised goes to support an eighth grade residency trip. 'The kids go over to stay in China, and are really able to practice what they've learned all through up to eighth grade,' Garland explained. 'Funding also supports field trips, teachers' classroom supplies - anything needed to make sure our Chinese Mandarin language learning students are well equipped in the classroom.'

The buffet dinner was served until just after the silent auction closed. After a brief appeal, and a short live auction, revelers danced the night away to live music, and genuinely seemed to enjoy their 'big night out'.

To learn more about the group, visit their Internet website: .

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