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Backus Centre now holding cash raffle

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The Backus Community Center in International Falls currently is selling $5 raffle tickets, with a grand prize of $750 in cash.

The second prize is $500 while third place is $250.

All proceeds will go towards the operation of Backus Community Center.

These dollars help support programs such as Bronco junior high basketball, the Borealis Bards, Community Café, Ruby's Pantry, walking programs, adult volleyball, art programs for kids, and much more.

The Backus fundraising committee voted to sell raffle tickets starting in December, with the draw set for Feb. 24.

“We felt it was a good way to raise funds as other cash raffles have been very successful in the community,” said Backus board president Sherrie Lessard.

The Backus Community Center was opened in 2002 by a group of local citizens who did not want to see the three-storey school building demolished when the school district stopped using it.

“Just imagine International Falls without Backus,” said Kay Arnold, a founding member of the Citizens for Backus/AB.

“Where would Darcie's dance studio be, or junior high basketball practice, or [the] Northland Art Society?” she mused.

“Our building has so much to offer.”

Ruby's Pantry, now in its third year in International Falls, requires an enormous amount of space.

“Without Backus, I'm not sure where else food could be distributed in our town,” said Lee Grim, one of Ruby's Pantry co-ordinators.

“The sheer amount of space Backus has in the gym and auditorium is just invaluable to our area,” he stressed.

“And the fact that guests can sit inside on cold days is such a benefit,” Grim added.

“Other towns' people have to wait outside, even in cold weather.”

Backus' gym and auditorium have played host to everything from ground-breaking events, Minnesota Deer Hunters Banquets to a wedding seating 500 for dinner.

The 85-foot by 56-foot gym floor gets well-used by basketball, volleyball, plays, performing arts shows, expos, seminars, movie nights, DARE graduation, high school music concerts, and more.

“We just refinished the floor at a cost of $1,200,” said Backus executive director Ward Merrill.

"It should be done more often but the labour and cost involved makes it difficult to do more than once a year.

“It is a full-time job keeping up with all the maintenance, wear and tear the building takes,” he added.

“We expect it but it's still a lot of time and money.”

With an annual expense budget of just over $600,000, Backus relies on many areas for funding.

Some $150,000, or 25 percent of revenue, comes from building rental income while $120,000, or 19 percent, comes from grants such as Otto Bremer Trust.

Just under $80,000 comes from local city and county funding.

“We have to be creative in finding new ways to pay the bills,” financial manager Hoa Sobczynski stressed.

“Our utility expenses are over $55,000 a year so every dollar helps.”

Raffle tickets can be purchased from Backus board members Kay Arnold, Patti Ballan, Andy Barnhart, Julie Bartkowski, Carol Bryant-Bushinger, John Faith, Derek Foss, Sherrie Lessard, Beth Lowthian, Tracy Lunser, Diane Maxey, Gail Rognerud, and Kendra Schmidt.

They also are available at the Backus office.

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