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Pledge drive for new library tops $804,000

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FORT FRANCES—Exceeding its campaign goal of $750,000 by more than $54,000 over the past two weeks, the “Building for the Future” committee has been overwhelmed by the community support for a new Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre.

While more pledges are likely to come in this week, campaign chair Mark Kowalchuk said Monday the recent “Drive for 35” brought in $89,496, raising the overall campaign total to nearly $804,500.

“There was a groundswell of support,” Kowalchuk noted, adding the phone blitz on Sept. 22-26 got donors—some of who were giving for the first time while others were topping up previous pledges to get their names on the donor recognition list—to take action and make pledges ranging from $50 to $5,000.

Kowalchuk said pledges came in not only from Fort Frances residents, but district residents who come into town to use the library as well as former residents living elsewhere in Canada and abroad.

“We were especially appreciative of the fact people weren’t waiting for phone calls. They saw the ads, they came to the library, and said, ‘You know what? I’ve had this pledge card since a year ago last spring. I’ve been meaning to come in, I’ve been discussing it with my spouse, here it is. We want to be part of this,’” noted Kowalchuk.

Kowalchuk said conversations blitz volunteers had on the phone with residents, as well as discussions he, library board chair Joyce Cunningham, and chief librarian Margaret Sedgwick had with people they met on the street, “only confirmed just how important the people of Fort Frances see this new library and tech centre as being.”

Kowalchuk said the fundraising campaign had seen lulls since first launching in the spring of 2007, and that in the past year some people may have had doubts as to whether a new library would be built or not.

“But when they found out there was going to be this ‘Drive for 35,’ they said, ‘Now is the time. This is going ahead. The town needs it. I am going to support this,’” he remarked.

“The support didn’t wane—it just became pent up, and when that release of the telephone blitz hit, it was like this flood of support that came in.”

He reiterated how happy he was to see the campaign culminate after 18 months of hard work.

“Speaking on behalf of the committee, everybody has been appreciative of the support Fort Frances has given us, both in dollars and in words. When we starting out, they said, ‘Great. Go for it.’ And then we kind of went into that bit of a slump, and they said, ‘Hang in there. Get it done, This is worth building.’

“All along, the committee has been very appreciative of those comments,” said Kowalchuk.

“And for myself, my appreciation extends to all the volunteers who stepped forward to invest their time and energy to make all this happen, whether it was a fundraiser at the Little Beaver Snow Park, the elimination raffle, or the phone blitz—all those little efforts, all those leads where someone said, ‘Talk to this person. They’ve been talking about making a donation, and I think it’s worth the phone call,’ it all added up,” he stressed.

Kowalchuk said the fundraising total may yet increase as he’s expecting a number of people to bring in pledge cards to the library over the next few days. As well, he’s had a number of individuals, businesses, and organizations who, over the past two weeks, have asked that he contact them about making a donation—requests he’ll be sure to follow up on.

Cunningham said she and the library board are “so appreciative of the work Mark and his committee have done,” adding, “It’s an amazing amount of work they did in 18 months, and the response from the community has been overwhelming.”

One of the volunteers making phone calls as part of the “Drive for 35” blitz, Cunningham said she was “a little surprised” by the fundraising total.

“It is interesting to note that we’ve had our ups and downs, but on this last phone blitz, I was most optimistic. I was fully confident when we started the phone blitz that we would meet that target of $35,000.

“I had been aware for quite some time that there is strong support in this community for the library and technology centre project, and so I am not surprised we reached our target. I am a little bit surprised at how far over the target we went,” she admitted.

“And I can say that I am extremely happy about that for a number of reasons. As you probably know, we have been agonizing over the building, the footprint, what is included in it, and we’ve had to make some significant cuts in the last four or five months.

“Perhaps this money that has come in over the $750,000 will take some of the pressure off in those areas, and I’m speaking primarily of the areas of furnishings and technology requirements,” added Cunningham.

“During this campaign, there many people who gave strong indications that they were bringing their money in, and I believe that some of that money is still coming in and that will further help us in taking the next steps in getting this project moving along.”

Cunningham noted the fundraising success shows community support of the new public library and technology centre is undeniable.

“It shows it not only in the level of financial support, but it was made very clear to us as we talked to people. It was clear in the thanks we received from people, people who said, ‘You have been doing your job carefully, and conscientiously, and we appreciate this and are looking forward to having that new facility,” she said.

With the library campaign’s end of the fundraising now met, Cunningham said she and the library board are looking forward to working with town council in the coming months to make the new pubic library and technology centre a reality.

“I believe that co-operation is inevitable, and I am pleased by that,” she remarked, adding the Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre building committee still intends to proceed to tender in January to enable construction to begin in early spring.

(Fort Frances Times)

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