Congratulations to all the winners of the monthly Gatherings with Purpose Small Towns Big Dreams contest.
We hope the following winning stories will inspire you to kick-start your dream community improvement project!
March/April winner: Diana Carson, Auburn, Maine
Diana will use her $1,000 prize to help build a playground at Walton Elementary School in Auburn, Maine.
Walton Elementary School serves over 320 children in grades pre-K through 6. Over 70 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch. Our school playground services a community of families and retirees in one corner of town, and over the past 10 years, two pieces of our equipment have broken and been removed. My children play in a hole in the ground with chunks of tar broken off from the parking lot. We are raising money to put in an art area of chalkboards, a music area with outdoor musical instruments, a set of 10 fitness stations around the running track, a shade structure, a built-in slide and climbing hill, and a creative play area with sand and rock features. This will make a more natural playground and will fit in with the school gardens we've put in over the last four years.
February winner: Adrienne Gable, Dalton, Georgia
Adrienne will use her $500 prize to help support parents of premature babies by offering gift cards and other forms of encouragement.
"Three years ago, the happiest day of our lives turned into the scariest. Most of the time, when you give birth to a baby, it is one of the highlights of your life. It is a whirlwind of EXCITEMENT (wondering how much will he weigh, how long will he be, what will he look like?). The baby is delivered, you hear his beautiful, healthy cry, they lay him on your chest, and for that moment you forget the pain and all is perfect! When you deliver a preemie, it's a whirlwind of fear - is my baby going to die? Am I going to die? Is my husband ok? The baby is delivered ... silence ... and he is whisked away from you, sight unseen, and all you can do is pray.
My dream is to bring peace and comfort to families that find themselves in this situation by providing them with a custom painted canvas with words of encouragement, a $25 gift card for gas and a $25 gift card for food. A random act of kindness can go a long way. "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
January winner: Carrie Robinson, Bronx, New York
Carrie would like to initiate a Grandparents Day celebration at the Mount Hermon Baptist Church. September 8th, 2013, is the date the calendar states that grandparents should be honored, but in her church and community, Grandparents Day has not been celebrated. She is going to work with her pastor and the Grandparents Empowerment Movement (G.E.M.) group to see if they will help celebrate Grandparents Day with information, lectures and materials for Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren or their kin (nieces, nephews, cousins, stepchildren). The theme of the event will be "Grandparents Gathering With a Purpose."
December winner: Annie Crowley, Groton, Vermont
Annie will use her $500 to put together a small group of community members willing to do weekly check-ins on elderly folks in her community, specifically during the winter months when it is hard for some elderly to get out of the house.
Check-ins would consist of stopping by to make sure they have what they need. They may need a trip to the store for milk, cat food, flashlight batteries, a walkway cleared or just a quick hello. Annie would like to put together a small emergency kit for each individual, including a flashlight, canned food, water and a phone list of local community members willing to stop by and visit. If there was a storm or the power goes out, the list of elderly residents would receive an additional check-in.
A phone chain will also be developed to use when someone is in need. Along with the emergency kits, leftover money would be used for incidentals if volunteers identified that one of the elderly they check-in on has a special need.
November winner: Regina Marscheider, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Regina will use her $500 to support “Simon says, just tell,” a marionette production that teaches young children how to recognize, prevent and disclose sexual abuse.
One out of four girls and one out of five boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18. It's a silent epidemic that is just now starting to be addressed with the Sandusky trial and conviction. "Simon says, just tell" is a marionette production that teaches young children how to recognize, prevent and disclose sexual abuse. It does so in an entertaining and nonthreatening way. This $500 would allow more than 200 children to receive the message to protect themselves against abuse and find safe haven through the help of a professional. As a result of this program, more than 156 child molesters have been convicted and are longer able to hurt and access vulnerable children in Hampton Roads, VA, alone.
October winner: Kasey Young, Burnett, Wisconsin
Kasey will use his $500 to restore the basketball court in his town park in Burnett, Wisconsin.
My big dream is to give our small town of Burnett one nice thing for the kids that all can enjoy. My goal for this project is to restore the basketball court in our town park. This will provide fun, family-friendly community activities for all ages throughout the years. As businesses have closed in recent years and there are a lack of bigger participating companies to help with monetary donations, most of the raised money has come from fundraisers. A down economy also means families are staying closer to home and looking for things to do locally, so it's become more important to have good local activities for kids and adults alike.
My wife and I recently held a backwards softball tournament for a fundraiser for park improvements and are currently in the process of organizing a raffle to help raise money for this project. Obviously, this takes time, money and manpower, so its a big project and every dollar will help. The overall idea is to provide a fun, safe environment for the children and adults for all to enjoy. I already have manpower, skid loaders, free truck time for gravel and concrete. My wife and I are very proactive with this project and we greatly appreciate your consideration.
September winner: Terry Trexler, Chesapeake, Virginia
Terry will use his $500 prize to help returning service members in his Chesapeake, Virginia, community make the transition back home less stressful.
Hampton Roads is home to many men and women who sacrifice much to benefit their country. We are home to every branch of the military, and there is a great need to give back to these individuals. Many come back from serving overseas with injuries that you can and cannot see. It affects their jobs, their families and futures. My goal is to provide assistance through various resources to make the transition back home less stressful. An example might be a soldier who returns home wheelchair bound and needs a ramp to easily get in and out of their home. Another may be a soldier who returns home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and needs counseling. Whether it is physical, mental or emotional needs, we want to impact these well deserving Hampton Roads Heroes. This money could go a long way in doing so.
August winner: Laura Meckley, North English, Iowa
Laura will use her $500 to organize family-friendly, affordable events that will strengthen and engage her community of North English, Iowa.
My big dream is to breathe new life into the charming little town of North English by providing fun, family-friendly community activities for all ages throughout the year. As businesses have closed in recent years, funding and participation has dwindled. A down economy also means families are staying closer to home or cutting out vacations altogether, so it's even more important to have local and affordable or free options for entertainment. As a new resident, I have been looking for ways to get involved in the community, and I had the pleasure of organizing part of the annual "Fun Days Celebration" this summer. Despite some rain and cooler-than-expected temperatures, feedback was positive and indicated there's a strong desire for more activities around town. Obviously, this takes time, money and manpower.
With two young children of my own, I have a vested interest and passion for planning and organizing family-friendly events for the community. A $500 contribution would provide the initial funding necessary for a group of interested members to get the ball rolling again and develop new ways to strengthen and engage our community. My motto and goal is simple: "Do good. Have fun. Make a difference." Prospective events might include a Halloween Fun Night, Santa's Workshop (craft make and take), Cookie Exchange, Game or Movie Night, as well as other theme parties, seasonal events & holiday activities. The overall idea is to provide a fun, safe environment for the children and an enjoyable family experience for the adults. I greatly appreciate your consideration.
July winner: Josh Sumption, Porter, Minnesota
Josh will use his $500 to make improvements and renovations to a facility that houses the community’s senior citizen dining program.
In 1988, our town, a community of 183 people, built a café and grocery store to ensure that these amenities were available for citizens in the years to come. This facility has served the community well and is also the location of our senior citizen dining program, which allows seniors to have homemade, nutritious meals together at noon every day of the week. It also provides them the opportunity to congregate, play cards, bingo and listen to old time music together! The Porter Development Corporation, overseen by a volunteer board, owns and maintains this great facility, and the manager who runs the business pays monthly rent to cover the fixed costs that the development incurs to cover property taxes, insurance and routine maintenance. So, anytime an improvement to the building is needed, the community comes forward through fundraising efforts to make it happen.
Our building has a handicapped-accessible entrance that we would like to improve for a few reasons. First, the wind catches the door and makes it very difficult for the elderly to open and close it. Second, when it is raining or snowing, the water and snow come against the door, rain getting into the building during the summer and snow piling against the door in the winter. We would like to build a small entry alcove over the door that would both block the wind and also shelter the entrance. This small addition to our building would be an enormous improvement for those using the facility. For a town of 183 people, a $500 contribution to this project from Modern Woodman’s Small Towns Big Dreams contest would take our dream a long way!
June winner: Nicole Cunha, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Nicole will use her $500 to build and provide oral hygiene kits for 100 at-risk youths in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The $500 Small Town Big Dreams gift would allow me to provide 100 oral hygiene kits to at-risk youth in Hampton Roads.
Each kit includes a Dr. Fresh starter kit that has a toothbrush, toothpaste, flossers and toothbrush cap; a tooth fairy pillow where a child can place a lost tooth for the tooth fairy to pick up; a peeper puppet finger puppet; an organic lip balm and a Xylitol lollipop (healthy candy).
According to a NY Times article on March 15, 2012, "Preventing and Treating Dental Disease in Children," failing to prevent pediatric dental disease can inhibit a child's ability to learn and grow. Children with serious dental disease find themselves in a downward spiral that negatively affects their adult lives, including limited employment potential and lifelong health problems. A simple oral hygiene kit can impact children for life.
May winner: Barbara Anderson, Iola, Kansas
Congratulations to our May winner, Barbara Anderson. Barbara will use her $500 to help develop a fishing dock for community members in Iola, Kansas.
"My dream is for my community to have a fishing spot for the citizens of Iola, Kansas. We need easy access for our adults and youths, since they have no place they can safely walk or bicycle to for fishing activities. After the devastating 2007 Iola flood, 100 homes in south Iola were destroyed. To utilize flooded zones in the Elm Creek area where homes cannot be built, volunteers have been working to make a nice park for fishing and picnics.
Originally, the south side of Elm Creek was along the Red Star Highway which ran from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Kansas City, Kansas. In 1922, the local Kiwanis Group built the Iola Tourist Camp, with picnic, camping facilities and a fishing area. Eventually, the highway moved (renamed highway 169), so the Tourist Camp area was neglected and became overgrown with weeds and trees. Our community has extremely high poverty, obesity and limited health care, so we are working to find more opportunities for our all citizens, young and old, to be active.
After recently surveying the community, we found that folks would like to take their children and grandchildren to Elm Creek to fish and picnic if the area were clean, safe and handicapped-accessible. After the flood, the City of Iola cleaned up the area and is mowing it. Iola's Community Involvement Task Force/PRIDE, a local volunteer organization, raised money to purchase cement picnic tables that the city installed in the Elm Creek area. A generous civic-minded gentleman built a historical marker, two sturdy benches, removed trash, and has planted trees and flowering bushes. Since there have been numerous write-ups about the volunteer efforts in the local paper, many Iolans have started using the area. On Easter weekend, there were picnickers, Easter egg hunts, and fishermen. Daily, people are walking down there because it's a beautiful area to relax. However, our work is not finished. We need to build a fishing dock to make fishing easily accessible to young and old, including our disabled citizens and visitors. I am a Modern Woodmen member and would like to receive this grant so that the full $500 could go toward the fishing dock. Please help us make a difference!"
April winner: Laura C. Rowe, Hampton Roads, Virginia
Congratulations to our April winner, Laura C. Rowe. Laura will use her $500 to help collect new and gently used shoes and distribute them to local underprivileged families, school districts and homeless shelters.
"The Got Sole Project collects new and gently used shoes and distributes them to local underprivileged families, school districts and homeless shelters. The attached video clip was filmed at our first fundraiser, in 2011. The monies raised allowed us to supplement the sizes still needed, as well as new socks. We are now preparing to distribute shoes in spring, summer and fall of this year and the need continues to rise. The $500 for the Small Town Big Dream Contest would allow us to purchase approximately 100 pairs of shoes, and change the lives of 100 people! Thank you for considering our cause and allowing us to continue to offer Faith, Hope and Love through shoes!"
March winner: Stacey Adkins, Norfolk, Virginia
Congratulations, Stacey. We wish you the best of luck with your spritual leadership conference for at-risk children.
"Imagine a spiritual leadership conference for at-risk children. A conference that allows children from low-income and poverty-stricken homes to experience God's love and learn skills they'll take with them as they become the leaders of tomorrow. Youth Councils is an annual spiritual retreat where the teens from across the state come together, learn about the Bible, deal with the important issues they face and in many cases change their lives. Youth Councils is a great opportunity for teens to get out of their present circumstances and have a weekend of fun away from the stress of home. We are committed to providing the experience and opportunity of Youth Councils to 25+ children, the cost of which is approximately $200/child. The gift of your 'like' will help provide these children with the opportunity to experience God's love and amenities and accommodations that we too often take for granted."
February winner: Bonnie Bradshaw, Suffolk, Virginia
Congratulations, Bonnie! We can't wait to hear more about how you will use your $500 prize to give back to children in your community.
"My dream is to take Mema's Mission to the next level. In remembrance of Lou Mason, a retired teacher's assistant with the Suffolk school system, I started Mema's Mission the day of her burial. She was the mother I never had, the one who believed in me and gave me the confidence to pursue my own life's goals. I watched her give back to children without recognition and enjoy doing it.
My life's ambition has always been helping others, even if I went without. Mema's Mission gives donated used clothing, luggage, beds, dressers, etc., to those in need, including foster children. The one thing that has tattooed itself on my soul is one teen saying to me that he was not worth anything, that all he has is in garbage bags, and that is how he is looked upon, as garbage. From that day forward I have asked everyone I know for their unsold yard sale items, clothing that their children have out grown, etc. I'm looking for luggage so there will never be another child using a garbage bag. I would love to be able to win this $500.00 to purchase new needed items, most of all luggage for the children.
My desire is to get the word out about Mema's Mission. We accept all clothing, toys and furniture items. Since our economy is in the shape it's in, I am out of everything. I received a phone call last week for bunk bed to keep a sibling group together, and I could not help. Making a difference is what it's all about, giving back to those in greater need than ourselves. If you have donated items please call 757-338-3344."