By TEDDYE SNELL
As the economy remains flat and the federal government begins to recover from its shutdown last month, nonprofit organizations formerly reliant on grant funding are looking for ways to raise money.
Over the past 18 months, Tahlequah Boys & Girls Club lost half a million dollars in grant funding, but still remains strong – thanks to fundraising efforts like Saturday’s Fall Marketplace, held at the Tahlequah Community Building.
Vendors came from as far away as Fayetteville, Ark., to show their wares and boost the club’s finances. According to B&GC fundraising chairwoman Sandy Crosslin, this is the second year for the market.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue this as an annual event,” said Crosslin. “We’re hoping to get a lot of folks coming through the building, buying from vendors and the concessions.”
Funding for the club via the marketplace came from vendors purchasing booth space and the profits on the concessions, said Crosslin.
“The vendors keep what money they make in sales, and we keep the booth rental fees,” said Crosslin. “I think it’s important to point out that we serve 6,000 children in 13 units, and have an average daily attendance of 1,500 per day.”
Crosslin said a chili fundraiser is being planned for January, and details will be announced later.
B&GC President Robert Webb said Janice Randall, the club’s chief professional officer, recently returned from accepting an award in Washington, D.C.
“Our B&GC was recognized as being the largest active club in the nation,” said Webb. “We have a very high average daily attendance.”
Shoppers at the marketplace were pleased with the wares. Laura Garner was shopping with her daughter, Taelor, who bought jewelry.
“They have some really pretty necklaces,” said Taelor. “They also had some great beads for my charm bracelet.”
Laura had her eye on a larger-ticket item.
“Do you see that old sewing machine stand over there?” she asked, pointing across the room. “It’s been there for a while, and I’m just going to have to go check it out.”
Saturday’s event also included a drawing for a 42-inch flat-screen television and a teeth-whitening package, along with three other prizes.
Tahlequah firefighters were on hand grilling burgers to help boost concession sales, and the smell coming from the cooker just outside the building was intoxicating.
Bethany McDonald and her two daughters – Marli, 5, and Lexie, 8 – wandered the aisles, checking out the homemade covered wagons one vendor was selling.
Further down the aisle, Marli and Lexi were exciting about handcrafted pendants two women from Fayetteville were selling. As Marli wandered off to look elsewhere, Bethany inquired about having a pendant custom-made.
“Marli has a birthday coming up, and I’d love to have one of these made special just for her,” said Bethany.
Randall said she was pleased with the overall turnout, considering it was competing with several other B&GC events planned for Saturday.
“We had several B&GC athletic events going on,” said Randall. “Next year, we’re hoping to make it bigger and better. We’re very happy with the number of vendors who participated.”