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Wednesday, 26 August 2009 15:05

Library supporters close to $1.6 million fundraising goal

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Fundraising for the new Jackson County library may have entered the home stretch, but is far from home free.

Friends of the Library is only $250,000 away from its $1.6 million goal. But the final leg will prove the toughest, longest and hardest yet.

The library fundraising committee has spent most of the past year going after big dollars and large grants from corporate sponsors and foundations. The fundraising will now enter what’s known as the public phase: eking out $50 and $100 checks from the general public to raise most of the remainder.

“This library complex belongs to all the people of Jackson County, and we need the citizens to support the project financially,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the capital campaign committee formed under Friends of the Library. “Everybody’s circumstances are different, but if people will give whatever they can afford, we will reach our goal.”

In coming weeks, the public will start to see cardboard banks shaped like books on the counters of local businesses throughout the county where people can drop their spare bills and checks.

The fundraising committee got welcome news last week. The campaign was still half a million short when word came through of a major windfall: a $250,000 grant from the N.C. State Employee’s Credit Union. It comes with a caveat that the community must match the money.

“We can say to the people of Jackson County for every dollar you give, it means two dollars for your library. That is a powerful thing in fundraising,” said Dr. John Bunn, co-chair of the capital campaign.

The challenge grant provides a needed push to carry the campaign across the finish line.

“The $250,000 challenge grant from SECU is a strong incentive for our community to reach the $1.6 million we need to complete the new library complex,” said June Smith, president of the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library.

The library is scheduled to open in December 2010. Construction, including the courthouse renovation, is estimated at $7.9 million and is being covered by the county. The furnishings, fixtures and equipment for the library were left up to the fundraising campaign.

Bunn hopes the final dollar will be raised by next spring.

“I think the people of Jackson County will respond,” Bunn said. “When you give to this, you have made a gift to something that will keep on giving to generations.”

Bunn said there was skepticism in the early stages of the campaign when a $1.6 million goal was looming ahead of them.

“They told us it was impossible,” Bunn said.

Bunn credits the concept of the library itself as the main driver in the fundraising success.

“This is the kind of thing that brings a new quality of life for all of the people here,” Bunn said.

Those courting donors had another major selling point up their sleeve. The new library is being constructed alongside the famous historic courthouse, which is being restored and renovated in tandem with the library project.

“That just clinched it,” Bunn said.

The library’s main entrance, atrium and courtyard — features that connect the library complex with the historic courthouse — will be named for the State Employees Credit Union.

Bunn said the new library and courthouse restoration will be a point of pride for the community.

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