Opinion Column

Changing faces of fundraising

 Kent Walton

Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I was the chair of a fundraiser for what was known as Collingwood Community Hospice. We were a dynamic little group of volunteers who were able to bring support to individuals and families coping with life threatening illness as well as bereavement follow up. 

I had taken the volunteer courses but felt I could be of more help with public relations and fundraising than offering respite care. They needed someone to help spread the word about hospice. We had no building, we had no beds! It was simply home visitation and bereavement follow-up.

Hospice shared an office with other charity organizations so our overhead was very limited. We had a secretary and a director who would guide our volunteers in the right direction. Life was simple! 

As a board member, I had two assignments; one was spreading the word about hospice through a newspaper column that I wrote for many years called Hospice Life. The second assignment was to make some money to pay the bills. Thus the fundraiser dinner!

So with my fundraising task in hand, twenty years ago I went to work to raise some money. We held a prime rib dinner with all the trimmings for a grand sum of $60 including a tax receipt for $30. I was the emcee and our guest speaker was local celebrity Dan Needles! It was a sell out of 160 supporters! What a coup! 

My crew did such a wonderful job that we broke the $10,000 mark after expenses!  We were ecstatic! That was then and this is now! 

This past weekend the current organization now known as Hospice Georgian Triangle held their annual dinner. This time I was not involved except as a guest. I was there to support and to enjoy.

Times certainly have changed. The name has changed, the home visiting volunteers are still active but we now have a ten bed facility complete with a nursing staff that is available for those facing their final days. We have bereavement programmes and training courses all of which are up to date and professionally presented. 

Because of our growth, the cost of running a ten bed facility with the paid medical staff required, the financial need of Hospice Georgian Triangle has grown greatly. Wow! From a shared office to a ten bed facility!

The number of guests attending the fundraiser has grown to the point that a huge ballroom is now used to handle the crowd. Hospice had a sell-out group of 260 people who were happy to participate in supporting the work of hospice. 

The function now includes silent and live auctions which raised more money than we could have ever believed twenty years ago. 

During the event, one gentleman spontaneously stood up to donate $2000 and cajoled his cohorts to match his donation. $12,000 later the night continued. He raised more money in five minutes that I did for the whole 1997 fundraiser! 

His spontaneous contribution was an example of how devoted people are to the efforts of Hospice Georgian Triangle.

I have no final figures on the evening but it certainly will surpass anything we could have dreamed of so many years ago.  At the time of this writing, staff was still crunching numbers but was estimating about $60,000 clear to be used for the work of hospice. Well done! 

By the way the guest emcee for the evening was someone named Dan Needles. Seems I have heard that name before; somewhere. 

Still volunteering for Hospice Georgian Triangle, Kent Walton can be reached at ebreflections@rogers.com.

 



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