Friends of the South Berwick Library raise 20 percent of its $1.1m goal

Posted May 16, 2011, at 1:17 p.m.

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — The Friends of the South Berwick Library reported Tuesday it has raised roughly 20 percent of the group’s $1.1 million goal for the new library project.

Patti Mitchem, co-chair of the Friends’ Capital Campaign Steering Committee, said the Friends have around $80,000 to $90,000 in hand, while the remainder of the $220,000 raised to date is comprised of committed pledges.

Mitchem and Jim Howell, the other committee co-chair, gave the fundraising update during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting as a way to keep the town informed of the Friends’ efforts to raise its share of the library project, for which the town is also partially funding through a 15-year, $1.5 million bond.

Howell also outlined several other steps the Friends are taking to raise their share, including a “direct asking effort” that involves sitting down with residents at their homes to explain how the library would affect them and what a contribution would help do for the project.

Howell said this “considerate and deliberative” method is one the group has determined as the best approach for raising the money, in addition to seeking out foundation donations and grants, because the Friends “want to engage people” rather than just ask for money.

“You don’t go in and ask for $10,000 to $15,000 — you have to engage them to think about how it can help them in fulfilling some of their hopes for the library or how they want to help the town,” he said. “Then we can go back later and see how we can try and close that sale.”

This approach is expected to continue through the summer. Howell said another “33 dozen folks” will be spoken to, and he said another 10 percent of the Friends goal could be reached in the next two weeks or so thanks to some of “direct asking” sessions.

Town Manager Perry Ellsworth thanked the Friends on Tuesday for the update, although he also asked for the Friends and town “to be joined at the hip … a little bit more” through the upcoming months as the town begins the bid process for the construction and renovation work.

“I’m going to need to know how many dollars you actually have,” he said. “If we don’t know how much money you actually have in hand or pledged, all we can bid is what we have the money to pay for. I can’t bid the full project out and hope that all the pledges come through.”

Ellsworth said the town had planned to go out to bid on May 16, although he said Tuesday that window will have to be delayed by “three to four weeks” due to unresolved issues with the some of the materials for the project, which entails renovating and expanding the St. Michael’s Church building on Young Street to turn it into a library.

The goal is to now go out to bid before June 6 or June 7, and award a bid for the work by July 14 or July 15, he said.

If that timeline is met, Ellsworth said construction of the addition and some of the renovations could begin on Aug. 15 and the town would be able to move the library into at least the completed and usable addition on or by March 1, 2012.

The town is also in the process of selling the rectory, which must be moved off the Young Street property in order for the library project to move forward. Ellsworth said Tuesday he was “working on the final details,” and said he hopes to have the rectory “jacked up and ready to move” by Labor Day.

More information about the Friends’ fundraising plans for the new library, as well as past and upcoming events, is available at friendsofsouthberwicklibrary.org.

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