Library campaign kicks off with a bang $134,000 raised so far

FORT FRANCES—The “Building for the Future” fundraising campaign for a new library in Fort Frances kicked off Friday in a big way—garnering a total of $134,130 in donations by the end of the day.
And organizers are seeing that as an encouraging start to their $750,000 goal, which they hope to reach by this time next year.
“It went very well,” campaign chairman Mark Kowalchuk enthused Monday. “The public response—their being there, their contributions, and their words of support—was very positive and made for a great start to the campaign.”
“I was very pleased with the whole day,” echoed library board chairwoman Joyce Cunningham. “The enthusiasm we saw from the community was very, very gratifying.
“The level of the donations we have now, based on one day, is very exciting.
“We are definitely geared up and ready to work towards our $750,000,” she added.
Both Kowalchuk and Cunningham noted the fundraising committee is just getting started and will be keeping its momentum going. For instance, pledge cards went out in the mail this week.
The committee also is in the process of getting a large group of people, referred to as “ambassadors,” to promote the library campaign wherever they go—explaining what’s been done and what lies ahead—and encouraging others to donate.
“We are realistic. We realize that campaigns of this type do take some time, and that it’s not all going to be done in one week,” said Cunningham.
Kowalchuk noted the committee also will be making several presentations in the next couple of weeks to local groups to try and get their support.
He added some businesses, like the CIBC (which will be donating money from dress-down Fridays to the library campaign), already have gotten on board.
“The visibility is now there,” Kowalchuk said. “People certainly, if they weren’t aware before, are aware now that we do have a new library in our future and are certainly getting behind it.
“We’ve got ideas to carry the campaign forward to its completion. We just need to sit down and start putting the final touches on that.”
If everything goes as planned, Kowalchuk said there could be a ground-breaking ceremony as soon as the ground thaws next year.
“That’s our goal,” he remarked. “Initially, we were looking at 2010 as our moving date, but with the $1.6 million endorsement from the provincial government, everything got moved up
“We really had to scramble to get things up and running,” he admitted. “A lot of people worked hard on getting our launch date ready to go, and they’re certainly on board to see us open those doors [at the new library] for the first time.”
Kowalchuk said the $1.6 million from the province has jump-started the fundraising and may very well make people more likely to give because it brings the planned library closer to reality sooner than later.
“People know it’s not just a long-term thing. They know that in the next little while, they’ll see more concrete things happening,” he reasoned.
“I believe when they saw that the province was endorsing this idea, and the idea of economic enhancement for the community—especially after the news about the paper mill—everybody’s outlook on the future of the town was raised astronomically.”
Chief librarian Margaret Sedgwick also was enthusiastic when asked about Friday’s campaign kickoff.
“It’s very good. We’re really pleased,” she noted. “It’s a very encouraging start.”
< *c>Kickoff events
The campaign kickoff officially got underway at noon Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site of the new library—located on Second Street East and Reid Avenue adjacent to the Memorial Sports Centre.
A large crowd was in attendance, with guests ranging from regular library users to dignitaries like Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis and Ontario Ministry of Culture rep Lisa Moncrief.
Students from Robert Moore, St. Michael’s, and Huffman School—the three schools within walking distance of the future library—also were on hand.
The students even made signs that bore messages like, “Hooray for a new library.”
Several speakers also shared a few words about the history of the project and what lies down the road.
Kowalchuk said planning for a new library here has been 12 years in the making—a process that included public meetings, a survey, three strategic plans, and many days investigating a dozen potential sites around town (looking at availability, size, location, access, and parking) before finally deciding upon the one at Second Street East and Reid Avenue.
“When realtors talk about property, they talk about location, location, location. Isn’t this a great location for our new library?” said Kowalchuk.
“A piece of property that is virtually ready for new construction [and] located in the part of Fort Frances with the greatest concentration of citizens.”
He noted the site is within a five-minute walk of three schools and four housing complexes, is adjacent to the Memorial Sports Centre, near Lions Park and the skate park, and not far from the riverfront.
“Libraries are no longer warehouses for books, as they once were,” said Kowalchuk. “Besides their traditional roles, libraries have become destination points—places where people meet to socialize, gain access to the world, and to get trained and have access to the latest technology.
“More and more we will hear people say, ‘I’ll meet you at the library.’”
Kowalchuk said town residents will see in their new library a modern facility that provides complete access to everyone, regardless of age or mobility, adding it will look more like a modern bookstore than the libraries “portrayed in old black-and-white movies.”
“The future of our community and the quality of life for its citizens, both young and old, depends as much upon what we can offer to their personal lives as to what we can offer to their professional lives,” he stressed.
“In a single-industry town, anything we can do to raise the profile of our community—to make it a more attractive place to live—is extremely important.
“It is my belief that [what] we can offer individuals and families is important in the community’s efforts to attract doctors, nurses, mill workers, investors, and new business opportunities.
“Change and growth is not an option. It is critical to our survival,” he said.
Kowalchuk also took a moment Friday to remember Ron King—a library board member “whose vision and enthusiasm about our community library was boundless.”
“Ron’s vision helped to take the library board through those dark days of frustration when we were looking for room to grow,” he recalled.
He added King’s untimely death “did not end his inspiration for a new library” and, in fact, in memoriam donations made to the library in his name were the first to be earmarked for the construction of a new one.
Friday also marked the day the library campaign received its $1.6 million cheque from the Ontario Ministry of Culture—a grant that was first announced last month.
Sedgwick passed along a message from Culture minister Caroline DiCocco.
“The ‘Building for the Future’ campaign will raise awareness and support for an exciting new library that will better meet the growing technological and literary needs of the community,” wrote DiCocco.
“This facility will offer improved opportunities to ensure that Fort Frances residents continue to have access to information and resources that enrich their quality of life.
“The Fort Frances Public Library is a cornerstone of the community and I would like to thank the many local donors for their generous contributions to this important initiative,” added DiCocco.
“Your support in helping your local library to better serve its patrons is greatly appreciated by the community and by our government.”
Mayor Avis said the planning for the new library, and the accompanying fundraising campaign, has been a long time in the making and that Kowalchuk, Cunningham, and the rest of the volunteers should be applauded for all their hard work getting to this point.
He added “a great deal of thought” has gone into picking the site at Second Street East and Reid Avenue, and that the committee “did their homework” when choosing this one.
Mayor Avis stressed town council supports this site for the new library and he hoped the community agrees.
However, he reminded the public “today is just the start of the work,” and urged them to support the fundraising campaign to make the new building a reality.
< *c>Open house
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was followed by a gathering at the current library later Friday afternoon, during which time people dropped by to donate to the cause and get more information about the future building.
They also socialized, enjoyed refreshments, and listened to music provided by local performers.
At that time, Ruth Caldwell of the “Friends of the Library” announced that group’s campaign pledge of $50,000 over five years.
She noted that “Friends” was formed back in 1996 with the motto: “We help to make our library the best it can be.”
In the past 11 years, the group has held numerous fundraisers, whether they be dances, raffles, bake sales, used book sales, or tag days, and also volunteered at special events like the annual Teddy Bears Picnic.
During that time, the group has provided many items for the library, ranging from furniture, a new circulation desk, paperback racks, computer tables, a microfiche reader, and even air conditioning for the older section of the building.
“We have intelligently invested surplus funds, and so it with pleasure that we find that we can pledge $50,000 to the new library,” said Caldwell. “Some of these investments will not mature immediately, so we are here to present a cheque for $10,000 as our initial contribution.
“We are now determined to continue our aim to help the new library be the best it can be.”
The future board/community meeting room at the new library will be named in honour of “Friends.”
Other donations that came in Friday ranged from $25,000 from Joyce Cunningham personally to $20 brought in eight-year-old Mitchell Riordon.
< *c>How to give
With the “Building for the Future” campaign goal being $750,000, there’s another $615,870 still to be raised. Everyone is encouraged to give to the campaign, and those who want to give should call the library at 274-9879 or drop by in person.
“We are encouraging people to look at a five-year commitment—whether they give it all at once, right up front, or whether they spread it out—and to donate what they feel is feasible or possible for them based on that criteria,” said Cunningham.
She added payment options, like Mastercard, VISA, or automatic deductions, are something donors should consider.
“We’ve been told by other campaigns that many, many people like to have the automatic deduction, where money is taken out of their account once a month.
“It’s amazing how fast $15 a month adds up,” she noted.
All donations over $25 will be issued a tax receipt.

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