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Fundraising Victory

A year ago, budget cuts threatened extra-curricular activities at Utica High School, in Ohio. In response, a group of community members banded together to support the programs. 

The North Fork Children's Foundation (NFCF), a non-profit organization that is raising funds for Utica High School's extra-curricular activities, was formed in May 2011. The group of community members came together after three failed levies caused the school board to vote against funding extra-curricular activities.

One of the fundraising initiatives developed by NFCF members was to install a Victory Garden at the school. Although Victory Gardens were originally a way for families to produce food that would help stretch their ration coupons during World War II, the NFCF is shedding a new light on the idea.

The NFCF Victory Garden will be installed on an unused end of the school, and feature a paved "Walk of Fame" to the "Great Wall of Redskins." Families, individuals, and businesses in the community can choose from several sponsorship packages that offer combinations of concrete pavers--which are interlocking bricks--that will fill the walkway and bricks on the wall. In this past school year (2011-2012), the sponsorship packages were separated for individuals and families, but in the coming year, they will be combined, to offer a more streamlined experience. The current options range from a $125 "Bronze" level, which includes one walkway paver, to "Platinum," which includes a masonry stone on the wall, and several other benefits.

"The Victory Garden is a critical part of our plan for two reasons," says NFCF secretary Pam Vickers. "One is because it's a source of funding for us. The other major reason we wanted to do it was because the school district is really the heart of the community. We're a small, rural community and we don't have a lot of commerce to generate tax dollars, so our district is really supported by the taxpayers. It was important to us to create a symbol that serves as a source of pride in our community and will give each family an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the kids in our school district. We knew the Victory Garden, with the engraved pavers to pay tribute to loved ones, would be a meaningful way to do that. When it's complete, community members will be able to see all of the honored individuals and keep their spirit going."
 
The development of the Garden is scheduled in phases that will span several years. "We're breaking ground this spring, and our goal is for the first phase to be in before the 2012-13 school year starts," Vickers says. "We expect that it will be a multiple-phase project. One of the reasons we've planned it this way is because we want to make sure we're being frugal with the dollars we invest in it.
 
"We also hope it grows and gets on-going support to expand," she continues. "Once we get the walkway in, and the curbing for the initial walls and fillers, there will be lots of opportunities to add on as the years go by."
 
The first step NFCF took to get the project started was working with the school. "We sat down and talked to the school district's administrators," Vickers says. "We made sure it was do-able from their perspective, and that there was a suitable location for it. If we didn't have their support to do something on the school grounds, we wouldn't have gotten very far."
 
The next step was figuring out how to structure the sponsorship packages. "We talked with booster organizations, PTOs, and community members in other communities that were actively involved in similar projects," says Vickers. "We wanted to understand what they did and how they did it. Once we had that information, we just had to dive in and get started. We used the Internet, our Facebook page, our website, our e-mail--everything we could to get the word out and talk with folks about the opportunity to get involved."
 
The group's efforts have paid off. At the 10-month mark, the project had received about 30 individual and family sponsorships, along with several business sponsorships, totaling over $50,000. The artist's rendition of the Victory Garden, as well as more information about the organization and the structure of its sponsorship packages can be found at www.nfcfoundation.com.



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