PENNSDALE – If the first five minutes of Raise the Region 2014 are any indicator, it will be an enormous success.
The annual fundraiser for nonprofits serving Lycoming, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties launched at 6 p.m. Wednesday and continues until 11:59 p.m. tonight.
More than $8,400 was raised by 6:05 p.m.
Now in its second year, Raise the Region, supported by the First Community Foundation Partnership, kicked off with a celebration at Blaise Alexander Chevrolet.
“The next 30 hours truly define the mission of community fundraising,” Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of the partnership, said as she welcomed attendees.
Blaise Alexander, who donated $125,000 that will be used to match funds raised during the event, welcomed the crowd as well.
“Thank you to every single one of you out there who makes a donation,” he said. “You’re the real heroes.”
Alexander also thanked his sons, Adam and Aubrey, for their involvement and dedication to the fundraising effort – and then presented everyone in attendance with a surprise.
“She talked me into it!” he said, as he crossed out the original amount on the check he presented to Wilson and wrote $150,000 instead.
The $25,000 increase means a boost not only in matching donation dollars, but in the various cash prizes given out over the course of the 30 hours of fundraising.
Expectations Women’s Center landed one of those prizes – along with Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Young Life Lewisburg, the Community Arts Center and North Union United Soccer Club – for being one of the first five nonprofits to reach 10 donations.
“Getting the extra money is amazing,” said Stephanie Hines, who works in development at Expectations.
The money continued to pour in, from those donating at home as well as at the dealership, where a bank of computers lined one wall and sat waiting in rooms off the showroom floor.
More than $46,000 was raised by 6:45 p.m., when Glenn Smith II, director of strategic philanthropy for the partnership, announced a second round of prizes.
The Lycoming County SPCA received an additional $2,000 for its first-place finish in voting by those in attendance. Magical Memories, a group that works to create special moments for children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, took second place, receiving $1,000.
There also were prizes awarded by a random drawing. The River Valley Regional YMCA, Haven Ministry, United Churches of Lycoming County, AIDS Resource Alliance of Williamsport and SUN P.E.T.S. each received an additional $1,000 when their names were called.
As of 7 p.m., more than $70,000 had been raised by 212 nonprofits from the six counties, which is an increase over 2013’s total of 160.
Wilson attributes the increase to the success of last year’s inaugural event, which raised more than $800,000.
“When people saw what we were able to do in such a short period of time, it really made a lot of nonprofits take notice,” Wilson said.
She said that Alexander’s support also was a big part of the event’s success.
“This is really only possible because of the matching funds” offered by Alexander, she said.
For his part, Alexander believes that the desire to give is a part of human nature, but the fact that a donation is matched doesn’t hurt.
“Philanthropy is in everyone … they just need a little push,” he said with a laugh.
To donate, visit raisetheregion.org and choose “Leaderboard” to see a list of registered nonprofits.
Donations are a $25 minimum and must be made via the website.