$137,000 raised in six weeks for Page One
Page News and Courier
LURAY — There's new hope in the new year, thanks to a community effort to raise funds for Page One.
For the nonprofit organization's manager, Lois Shaffer, the last month has been the equivalent of a Christmas miracle. Over the last six weeks, the agency has collected $137,000.
“I just can't believe it,” Shaffer said. “It's overwhelming to see how people have stepped up.”
In November, Shaffer sat in Page One's office wiping away tears after the organization was forced to suspend four of its financial assistance programs and limit funds for its electricity and fuel assistance programs. The local agency also set tougher requirements for its USDA and Pantry Food Distribution Program.
The nonprofit organization struggled to provide services throughout 2012, after seeing a 42-percent increase in clients. Page One's fiscal belt was tightened further by dwindling donations over the last two years. By the end of November, contributions to the organization were down by more than $14,000, compared to 2011, while total revenue dropped by more than $11,000.
On Monday, Shaffer was back at the Page One office, once again blotting back tears. With a smile, the 22-year Page One manager said they were “tears of joy.”
In their wildest dreams, Shaffer said she and the Page One Board of Directors hoped a fundraising campaign launched six weeks ago by two local banks would generate at most $50,000 for the nonprofit agency. Luray's Blue Ridge Bank and Stanley's Pioneer Bank announced in November a fundraising effort aimed at raising $20,000 for Page One. The local businesses each pledged up to $5,000 in matching donations if other community members raised $10,000 or more by Dec. 22.
As community organizations, businesses and private supporters rallied for Page One, donations quickly surpassed $20,000, and have continued over the last six weeks.
“It's blown away any expectation that we had,” said Brian Plum, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Blue Ridge Bank. “The response is a testament to our community.”
Shaffer said Tuesday Page One has received $137,000 — and counting. That number does not include a $6,000 donation to Page One's Shenandoah location or more than $2,000 donated to Page One's Food Pantry. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank donated 15 pallets of food to the organization's pantry, in addition to other donations made by local residents to the pantry program. Page One also received several big-ticket items to sell at special auctions.
Shaffer pointed to one woman who was moved to help, but wasn't able to make a monetary donation. The woman instead donated two cemetery plots, which will likely generate about $1,000 for Page One, Shaffer said.
Days after Page One's fundraising campaign launched, Luray's Christ Episcopal Church donated $10,000 to the effort, in order to ensure the funds pledged by the Blue Ridge and Pioneer banks.
“We hoped others might follow in suit,” said church member Susan Zorn Phillips, adding that Christ Episcopal also made a $500 donation to Choices. “Both [organizations] are providing services that are truly needed throughout the community.”
A week later, the Luray Town Council voted to increase its annual donation to Page One to $5,000. Acting Town Manager Jerry Schiro asked the council to transfer $2,000 originally earmarked for the Luray Wranglers and add it to the $3,000 budgeted for Page One. The Luray Rotary Club was also inspired to contribute $5,000 to the local cause.
Other $5,000 contributions came from Richards Bus Lines, VF Jeanswear, Mt. Zion Church, Page United Methodist Church and Valley Health. Shaffer said Page One received dozens of $1,000 or more donations, and even more smaller donations. Springfield Elementary students and staff, for instance, held a penny drive and collected more than $100. The students and staff of Stanley Elementary held daily food drives throughout December. Shaffer said the school contributed about a truckload of food each day of the drive.
Many additional donations came from first-time donors, Shaffer added, or those who had not contributed to Page One in several years. Plum said in November the fundraising campaign was aimed at inspiring businesses and organizations that had never donated to Page One to become year-round supporters.
Ikey Rosazza, chief executive officer and chief financial officer for Pioneer Bank, added at the time that he viewed the fundraising campaign as a “chance to give back” to an organization that has given so much to the community for more than two decades. Rosazza cited the uniqueness of Page One in that the donation-driven organization is a way for Page County residents to help other local residents.
A few days before Christmas, Shaffer said one local resident called to tell her he'd been moved to transfer $25,000 in stocks to Page One.
“I was speechless for a few minutes,” Shaffer said, wiping away another tear. “For someone you don't even know to want to give a gift like that — it's overwhelming.”
The Page One Board of Directors are set to meet this month to begin the organization's 2013 budget cycle, which will run through December 2013. Shaffer said board members will finalize the upcoming budget in the next month, but anticipate the funds raised for Page One to keep the agency operating through the end of the year, or close to it.
On Tuesday, Page One had already reinstated several of its suspended programs, including its electricity and fuel assistance programs. Shaffer said the organization looks to bring back most of its programs by February, but will continue to limit some assistance, in order to meet the rising need. She added that Luray dentist Patrick Sprague is volunteering his services as a way for Page One to save funds.
Fundraising efforts are expected to continue through 2013, Shaffer continued. She said Page One volunteers are already planning several events and brainstorming ways to generate new revenue. Page One's Luray thrift store plans to begin selling items through the online auction and shopping website eBay, and have already set up a PayPal account, which allows payments and money transfers to made through the Internet.
In November, a new requirement by Page One helped ensure a needed volunteer base for the organization's Luray thrift store. The organization depends on sales from both its Luray and Shenandoah shops for a large part of its revenue — more than 50 percent as of November 2012.
In mid-November, Page One began requiring anyone who received pantry or financial assistance during any one month to volunteer five hours at the Luray thrift store. The new requirement generated 193 new volunteer hours in November.