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Fundraisers brace for cuts

By TERRI BRYCE REEVES
Published April 28, 2007


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LARGO - From the start, community support has been essential to the success of Largo's library.

It began in 1914, when the Largo Woman's Club gathered donations of books and lumber under a large camphor tree in the center of downtown.

Nine decades later, the Greater Largo Library Foundation, the nonprofit organization that cultivates gifts and bequests for the library, raised more than $1.9-million in a capital campaign for the new library, built in 2005 at a total cost of $21-million.

Now, with the Florida Legislature maneuvering to cut local tax revenues, support for the library is as important as ever.

"The city's contribution to the library could be cut from $500, 000 to $1.4-million, depending on what Tallahassee does, " said Scott Thompson, administrator of the Greater Largo Library Foundation. The city provided almost $3-million in funding in 2006, with the state, county, and other sources contributing more than $1-million.

If the cuts happen, Thompson, 48, is ready to help fill the gap.

He said the foundation's goal this year is to raise $313, 645 to provide enhancements not found in the library's current budget. But with an eye trained squarely on the future, he wants to create a $2-million endowment that would generate interest income to support the library, no matter what happens.

Thompson, who took the helm six months ago, should be in a good position to do so.

A former Wesleyan minister, Thompson comes with 25 years of fundraising experience, having worked for the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and several hospitals and churches.

"It's all about working with people, helping people, raising funds and awareness, " he said.

He came aboard as the foundation moved from an emphasis on raising money for construction to one that has provided special touches for the library. Those extras include a homework "survival" center for middle school students, a foreign language collection, the library's history exhibit, and two cherry-red mobility scooters for the handicapped.

"If those cuts come, the foundation may have an expanded role in helping with some of the more critical areas as well, " he said.

To help reach their financial goals, Thompson said he plans to introduce some new methods of giving: bookcase endplates as memorials for loved ones, cookbooks, Christmas ornaments and a New Year's Eve gala. For $25, 000 a year for five years, one can name a room or area for themselves, a business or corporation.

And of course, there are the time-tested fundraisers like the annual fashion show, membership drives, planned giving opportunities and corporate sponsorships, all of which will continue.

Thompson said he's not shy about asking people to show him the money.

"We provide good and valuable services to the community, so we ask, " he said. "It will be interesting to see where we go."

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

Fast Facts:

Largo Library

SIZE: 90, 300 square feet.

PATRONS: 1, 500 a day, 52 percent of whom come from outside Largo.

ANNUAL BUDGET: $4-million-plus.

LIBRARY FOUNDATION: For membership, memorial and sponsorship opportunities, call Scott Thompson at 587-6779.

[Last modified April 27, 2007, 22:44:19]


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