Bill and Donna Roach to be honored at Red Light Ball | TheUnion.com

Bill and Donna Roach to be honored at Red Light Ball

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Public Safety Commitment Award winners, Bill and Donna Roach, at the Nevada County Consolidated Station 88 in Grass Valley.

Since it was founded in 1998, the non-profit Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council has donated more than $800,000 to local public safety departments. Bill and Donna Roach are recipients of the council's annual Public Safety Commitment Awards, to be presented at the 17th annual Red Light Ball fund-raiser Feb. 27 (the event is sold out).

Bill and Donna Roach are people who get things done: fast, efficiently, and accurately. That was their trademark during the years they organized the two biggest annual fund-raisers of the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Prevention Council: the Red Light Ball and Guns & Hoses Golf Tournament.

The Roaches co-chaired the committees that organized Guns & Hoses (2012-2015) and the Red Light Ball (2013-2015). During those years, the two fund-raisers netted more than $90,000 for the council. The money was donated to local public safety organizations.

The Red Light Ball, previously held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Main Exhibit Building, was time-consuming but rewarding.

“That is the essence of the council. You simply volunteer your time, talent and expertise. You give whatever you have.”Bill Roach

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"It was months in the planning, four days to set up, and one day to tear down," Bill remembered. "At the end of the night everyone would leave their cups on the tables, and many still had drinks in them. So the day after the ball, we emptied all those drinks into giant buckets and made really potent cocktails. Then we dumped them down the toilets!"

"The most astounding thing to me was the mileage Bill put on his truck every year," recalled Donna. "One year he drove 380 miles picking up supplies, decorations, the bars, booze, serving racks for the caterer and things like that."

The golf tournament at the Alta Sierra Country Club was less complicated, both Roaches agreed.

"It's a fun event. It's not just about golfing," said Bill. "It's about being out there and having a good time."

"Yet everyone is competitive because there are prizes to be won," added Donna. "I think it's one of the best raffles in the county."

How were those fabulous raffle prizes collected from far-flung spots across Nevada County? Hint: Think Bill and his truck. How were the prizes solicited, labeled, and organized? Envision Donna working late into the night.

"I do some of my best work in the middle of the night," admitted Donna. "I'd be awake for hours, making lists and thinking of things that needed to be done."

While it's obvious the Roaches don't shy away from hard work, they also have a playful side.

"At the golf tournament, (council president and founder) Bill Drown does the shotgun start, firing a real shotgun with blanks. We got this idea to have a friend throw a rubber chicken off the country club balcony," laughed Donna. "It was the ugliest plucked, rubber chicken you've ever seen."

After serving on the organizing committees of both fund-raisers for almost a decade, the Roaches found time to become the co-chairs after they retired in 2012. Bill sold his glass-blowing supply business and Donna stepped down as operations manager for several stock brokerage companies.

Their personal history reflects their "Get'R Done" philosophy. The Roaches met on a blind date, and married just four months later. That was 34 happy years ago.

"I love working with Donna. She's so efficient and gets the job done," said Bill. "She's a planner. She's picky about getting things done ahead of time."

"What's great about Bill is he's willing to do whatever he's asked to do. He goes and does, cheerfully and without complaint," Donna said. "But one thing I know he doesn't miss is removing mud from the front of the fairgrounds building the day before the ball. He used a shovel and his blower, so guests in their suits and formals didn't have to trudge through mud after it rained."

"There's a low spot right in front of the entrance," explained Bill. "Every year it would take me hours to get rid of all the mud. There was nothing glamorous about that job, but it had to be done."

One year, rain and mud wasn't a problem — but a winter snowstorm was.

"We weren't in charge that year but we were on the committee. A few of us met in the fairgrounds parking lot, and there was more than a foot of snow," recalled Donna. "I rolled down the window two inches and said, 'Maybe we should cancel.' We all just laughed, because really, what can you do?"

A successful ball was held later that spring.

The Roaches have been involved with the council since 2002, and they downplay the impact of their years of volunteer service.

"That is the essence of the council," said Bill. "You simply volunteer your time, talent and expertise. You give whatever you have."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.