Backers of a university campus here have raised $100,000 to help buy nearly 260 acres of Forest Service land for a 6,000-student campus.
The $100,000 represents a down payment on $375,000 the Rim Country Educational Foundation (RCEF), the educational fund-raising arm of Mogollon Health Alliance, needs to pay for environmental assessments of the U.S. Forest Service property needed to build the campus and a research park. The studies will help the Forest Service complete its Sales Implementation Strategy, a series of over 70 government-mandated steps before it can sell the property directly to the Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE).
“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how the community has come together to support this crucial project,” reported Richard Johnson, treasurer of RCEF and chairman of the Volunteer Funding Committee. “From generous grants to $5 contributions, numerous people have contributed in so many ways.”
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans addressed the crowd at a recent event. “We’ve had meaningful conversations with ASU leadership,” said the mayor. “We are moving ahead with the Forest Service Sales Implementation Strategy, on faith that through these fund-raising efforts and others, we’ll have sufficient dollars to pay the expenses. The energy and enthusiasm of the community are making a huge difference in our efforts.”
Evans said that backers hope to continue raising money, but have also been promised major matching grants. “We must continue to depend upon the local community, but also have received a number of contingent pledges for large dollar amounts. The larger grants are anticipated as they see and feel the commitment of the residents of Payson. That’s why everyone’s contribution is critically important.”
The fund-raising campaign started with two individual pledges of $12,500 in matching contributions. Several individuals made sizeable contributions and the Central Arizona Board of Realtors (CABOR) made a matching grant of $25,000. In recent weeks, other community organizations and businesses, including CABOR, Four Seasons Motor Sports, Rim Country Rehabilitation, Safeway, Payson PAYS, Chaparral Pines Golf Club, The Rim Club, and Gila County Board of Supervisors stepped forward and volunteered to support the university initiative with donations, grants and by hosting fund-raising events.
CABOR initiated the “Change for Change” campaign, kicking off with a dinner-dance at the Oxbow on Aug. 11. Ticket, raffle and auction sales from the Oxbow event raised approximately $10,000. Additional proceeds should come from the Change for Change cans placed in businesses around town. The ongoing raffle of a 2012 Polaris Ranger 800 4x4 Side-by-Side ATV (provided at cost by Four Seasons Motor Sports) should generate over $10,000. The raffle tickets, limited to 250, cost $100 each. Tickets can be purchased by calling the CABOR offices at 928-474-1944.
The local Payson arts community, led by Sally Myers, volunteered their time and talents for fund-raising. Twenty-five local artists exhibited original paintings, sculpture, photography and jewelry during “Art Walk at the Rim.” Raffle tickets were sold and artists donated 25 percent of their sales proceeds. The Rim Club contributed its facilities and refreshments. In all, almost $5,000 was raised on a Saturday afternoon during rodeo weekend.
“The enthusiasm level and support of the arts community was heartfelt and infectious,” expressed fund-raising and planning committee member Janet Vidnovic. “The Art Walk provided a wonderful venue to update attendees on the status of our campaign. Direct contributions by attendees have multiplied the event proceeds. We hope to continue the event annually.”
Other private fund-raising events continue to generate results. “We can’t lose sight of the goal of bringing a university campus to Payson,” concluded Johnson. “Right now is a critical time in the evolution of this project. We are asking all members of the community to consider how they can support the campus and make a contribution to continue our momentum.”
The mission of RCEF is to promote and support the proposed four-year university campus and other educational needs of the residents in the greater Payson area. Under the umbrella of Mogollon Health Alliance Rim Country Educational Foundation qualifies as a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization. Donations, which are tax-deductible via check, cash, PayPal, or credit card. The Foundation’s address is 308 Aero Drive, Payson, AZ 85541. Donations may also be made at www.universityinpayson.com
For more information contact either Richard Johnson (Cell: 480-390-9916, Home: 928-468-6043, or email@example.com) or Marketing Committee Lead Laura Ann Bartlett-Armstrong (468-0132, lxb59@yahoo. com).