January 10, 2017 10:12:17 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
In April 2013, Friends of the Library for the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library kicked off an endowment campaign to support the library's children's programs.
Named in honor of Edwina Williams, known as Mother Goose, the endowment campaign was designed to raise $100,000 in five years.
It seemed like a tall order.
"It was an amazing amount of money for a town of 23,000," said Anne Freeze who, along with Jo Shumake, co-chaired the campaign. "We gave ourselves three years to reach the goal, but we didn't know if that was realistic. We hoped it would be."
Thanks in large part to a year-long series of events to honor Williams for her 30-year run leading "Story Time With Mother Goose" at the library, the campaign not only exceeded its goal, it reached it a full year ahead of schedule.
"I can't believe it," Shumake said Monday. "We're still waiting for a couple of checks, but right now, we have more than $101,000 for the endowment."
The year-long celebration and fundraiser honoring Williams concluded Saturday with a $50-per-ticket "Goose's Grand Gala" at the Trotter Center, drawing more than 240 guests and raising a little more than $12,000 to put the campaign over the $100,000 mark.
"It's so great that we were able to reach the goal. It was sort of like a Happy Birthday gift to Mother Goose."
Williams turned 80 last week.
Having an iconic figure sure as Williams was essential to the campaign's success.
"What it did was put a face on our fundraising," Freeze said.
Now the attention turns to putting the endowment to work.
"There are four areas targeted for the money: increasing the library's collection of children's books, enhancing the library's Childhood Resource Center, expanding information and programming in its Autism Resource Center and providing more resources and workshops to help parents understand the value of reading with their children.
"To us, this endowment is such a relief because we know we're going to have the funds we need for these programs," said library director Erin Busbea. "With the way the budget has been going, at least we know we'll have the money we need to keep these programs going and growing. We're thrilled and thankful to the community."
Shumake, who also serves as the treasurer for Friends of the Library, said the logistics of how the endowment will operate will soon begin to take shape.
"We're just getting started on that," she said. "What we do know is that the endowment will be invested through the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, which operates a number of endowments around north Mississippi and in Columbus. They'll invest that money, and we'll use the dividends to help fund the programs. The idea is that you never touch the principal; It's used to generate the dividends. That's the money that can be spent.
"Right now, we don't know many of the details -- how it will work, how often they'll send us a check," she added. "That should come together in the coming weeks."
The campaign may have reached its goal, but the effort to enhance the library's children's programs will continue.
"We don't have any more events planned, but we still want people to continue giving," Freeze said. "We don't want to put a limit on that. The community response has been wonderful. Let's keep it going."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]