<p>HELENA, Mont. – Every February the staff at Helena Community Credit Union gets a taste of what youthful "showbiz" is all about-and the reward is a bonanza of goodwill and public exposure for the $68 million CU. The CU staff helps in making arrangements for the big event – "A Night to Shine," a teen talent show held in the Helena Civic Center to sold out crowds. Nearly 2,000 are expected for this year's show scheduled Feb. 19. Helena Community has been sponsoring "Night to Shine" for nine years with the popular event raising funds for local Distributive Education Club chapters at area high schools. "This thing costs us maybe $6,500 to $7,000 to put on, but we couldn't buy $6,500 in TV or radio ads that would bring us the kind of public recognition we get from our sponsorship," said Gene Bowen, president of Helena Community. Sure enough, said Bowen, the expenses do include renting the Civic Center, hiring a technical director and spending funds to advertise the show in the media, but there is always a prominent mention of Helena Community as the sponsor. The end result is an event-"Night to Shine"-that has engendered excitement among both high schoolers and their parents as youngsters audition and prep for a home grown talent show. This year's production features 22 acts in a two-hour show. It's been in the works since last October. Students learned the techniques of marketing and advertising, made posters, handled ticket sales, wrote scripts and conducted auditions under both parental and professional guidance. CU offices were used by students as they do their planning. At the January auditions, students from seven area high schools participated, and there were 46 acts whittled down by the 11 judges to the final 22. Judges included local teachers, businessmen, staffers from Helena Community and Tracie Karls, president of Montana Credit Union Network. Proceeds from ticket sales go toward student scholarships and participation in the National Distributive Clubs of America Conference. In eight years, nearly $52,000 has been raised for the DECA cause with $8,000 expected this year. The show is put on by the CU in cooperation with two DECA clubs at two local high schools but students from five other Helena schools participate in the show. Bowen said other CUs in Montana have shown interest in sponsoring similar projects but none have pursued it the way his CU has. "It does take some staff time," he acknowledged, but it has not been inordinate. Bowen serves as emcee during check presentation ceremonies to the DECA groups and his marketing director, Faye Lippincott, helps out in lining up judges and advertising. "It's a great tradition we have here in Helena," said Bowen, and it appears one that is likely to continue. – [email protected]</p>

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