NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A chance to be a "United Way hero" — and get a box of homemade cupcakes — drove the School Department's donations to Northern Berkshire United Way across the $10,000 line last week.
The hero was Robin Grandchamp, librarian at Colegrove Park Elementary School, who was first to pledge the $14 that would take it to the $10,000 mark.
"I only wanted to help and I made an initial donation," she said on Monday as she accepted the chocolate cupcakes. "When I heard Ellen [Sutherland's] baked goods were at stake, I couldn't hit that enter fast enough."
Campaign coordinator Ellen Sutherland, assistant to the superintendent, said the drive has collected a record $10,200 so far, more than double that of just a few years ago. School Department employees and retirees were exceedingly generous, but it helped to have a little incentive, Sutherland said, in the form of raffles of donated items and gift cards.
"It's from people who are on all spectrums of the pay scale," she said. "We try to make it fun: Who doesn't like to win something?"
Raffle items ranged from gift cards to area restaurants and businesses and a lot of handmade and homemade items, like real maple syrup from the Caproni family, afghans made by Pat Boulger and Marie McCarron's homemade baklava.
"We usually end it just before Thanksgiving so it's 10 days of raffle prizes, some days there's a couple," Sutherland said. "We make it fun. We had [Facilities Manager] Matt Neville model the afghan. ...
"You're seeing people who are not only reaching into their wallets to make a donation to the United Way but giving a prize to build incentive."
Sutherland also this year reached out to retired employees who had donated in the past, generating $700, including $100 that came in on Monday, and "some really nice notes from people who had retired from the district."
On Thursday, she realized the total amount donated was at $9,986.
"When I came to the totals I thought, 'oh my gosh, we're $14 away from $10,000. I bet I could get that,' " Sutherland said.
So she went to her email list and set a challenge: "If anyone wants to be a hero and donate $14, I will bake and deliver a tray of cupcakes to you on Monday."
Grandchamp was the first one but Sutherland said she had a dozen people "who responded in a minute." Grandchamp had missed out already on some goodies, like Sutherland's whoopie pies, and was happy to have opened her email at the right moment.
"She gives great little incentives ... she makes you want to be part of it all," Grandchamp said.
Christa Collier, NBUW's executive director, said her organization was thrilled by the "generous educators and staff of North Adams Public Schools."
"These dollars, will support our 20 member agencies who provide the critical human service programs in Northern Berkshire, serving the towns of Adams, North Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Savoy, Florida and Williamstown," she said. "Funds raised will support programs in the areas of education, health, financial stability and safety net services."
Collier also credited Sutherland, a member of the nonprofit's board, for her successful campaign efforts.
"First asked to be a campaign coordinator for one of the schools, she eventually became the coordinator for the entire district under Superintendent James Montepare," Collier said. "Since then, she has worked to increase the campaign each year. Of significance is that in 2016-2017, the campaign saw an increase of 30 percent and this year an increase of 25 percent."
Sutherland said more than 40 percent of the district contributed to the drive.
"This district does so much for families. There's so many programs that people don't even know about, that the public doesn't know," she said. "I'm a big advocate for the United Way ... the United Way serves our families in so many ways and, really, it's just such a nice connection."
2017 United Way Campaign Raffle Prize Winners
Marie McCarron, $50 gift certificate to Bounti-Fare Restaurant
Tracy Piekos, two pair earrings from Irish Girls Art donated by Cathleen King
Claire Daub, book lovers gift bag donated by Superintendent Malkas
Michelle Nicholas, Cheryl Boillat & Andrea Filkins, quart of Caproni maple syrup
James Blair, $50 gift certificate to the Richmond Grille
Brian Pious & Jaana Mutka, handmade afghan donated by Pat Boulger
Wendy Nelson & Jill Kelley, $25 gift certificates to Empire Antiques
Ashley Penna, $50 gift certificate to Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe
Shane Steinman, two passes to Ramblewild
Carrie Silva, $50 gift certificate to Bount-Fare Restaurant
Jaime Hamilton, chimney cleaning from Western Mass. Chimney ($160 value)
Richard Wood, plate of Marie McCarron's homemade baklava
Sara Luczynski, whoopie pies (or any other request) baked by Ellen Sutherland
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