July 29, 2016

Feed the Need fundrasing efforts change course - By Elizabeth Richards

Fundraising efforts for the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Feed the Need initiative looks different this year, but the goal of eliminating hunger in the region remains unchanged. Rather than the Octoberfest festival of recent years, the committee will concentrate on raising money through a series of smaller events, said SLRCC Executive Director Aimee Senatore.

“It comes down to what the mission is. Feed the Need is an initiative to eliminate hunger in the Sebago Lakes Region. Our efforts were getting pushed towards putting this big festival on and we weren’t dedicating our time to raising as much money as we wanted to raise,” she said. 

What people don’t necessarily know, she added, is that Octoberfest was originally started as a way to thank the businesses involved in the Community Coin Challenge, rather than a major fundraising effort. But over the years, a lot of energy was focused on the festival rather than how to raise money. Last year, due to a variety of issues at the previous location, including security, electricity and space, Octoberfest was moved to Camp Hinds in Raymond. 
“It was very successful, but it also demanded an awful lot of work and people to make it happen,” Senatore said. 

As challenges arose for some of the key planners, the committee met and determined that the festival had moved away from the original purpose. With a small volunteer base, they decided to eliminate a lot of the work while focusing on fundraising with smaller events over the next few months.

These events include a yard sale on July 30th, an eBay auction and a raffle for helicopter rides, a walk put on by the Rotary Club called Feet for Food, and a benefit night at Franco’s Bistro on Tuesday, August 23rd. Lee’s Family Trailer will hold its annual Dumping for Diapers event which collects personal care products like diapers, shampoo, toilet paper and paper towels that are essential items that the food pantries are in dire need of, said Senatore. 

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In addition, a new regional spotlight event called The Amazing Chase will be held on September 24, 2016. Four person teams will compete for prizes in a series of challenging team building activities, including physical challenges, road blocks and pit stops that take them all over the region. More information can be found at www.amazingchasesebago.com.        

Once a participant has registered for the Amazing Chase, Senatore said, they will receive an email encouraging them to raise at least $50 per person for Feed the Need through a crowd funding platform.

Included in the Amazing Chase is a large after party for participants, with food, beverages and live music. Lee’s Family Trailer and Windham Weaponry will both participate in this party as the Feed the Need representation, Senatore said. The barbeque will be hosted by Lee’s Family Trailer, and Windham Weaponry will have a dessert tent at the event. During this party, a check ceremony will be held to award the money raised through that date.

Feed the Need is the primary philanthropic activity of the chamber, Senatore said. While the initiative is active year round, the major fundraising push happens from July through October. At the beginning of November, checks are awarded to the food pantries as they move into their greatest time of need.
In the first four years of the initiative, over $80,000 has been raised, directly benefiting the food pantries. In April 2016, the chamber created a 501©3 non-profit, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber Charitable Trust to enhance the initiative.

The 13 pantries in the ten communities served by the SLRCC have come to rely on the money raised through Feed the Need, said Senatore. “We decided to really focus our efforts on making sure that we reach our fundraising goals, and do it in a way that is more streamlined and efficient from a volunteer and time perspective, and hope that the community can understand that,” she said.

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