Rocking the vote
Farm News staff writer
LAKE CITY -While libraries have traditionally been the bastions of quiet study, spirited competitions at the Lake City Public Library have helped the small community lead the nation in the quest for a $50,000 grand prize from the Reader’s Digest “We Hear You America” campaign.
“We’re 280,000 votes above Higginsville [Missouri],” shouted Kim Olson, the assistant library director who helped coordinate the second community-wide vote-a-thon on Jan. 3.
Cheers echoed from the volunteers throughout the library who cast vote after vote from laptop and desktop computers to help boost Lake City’s total to more than 1.37 million votes.
Since Reader’s Digest kicked off its second annual “We Hear You America” campaign in mid-November 2011, towns across the United States have been competing to win funds and promotional support, including a grant of up to $50,000 for projects to make their communities an even better place to live.
Residents of Lake City, population 1,727, are passionate about winning the top prize to support a $2 million swimming pool project.
“Everyone in town is talking about the ‘We Hear You America’ contest,” said Marci Duncan, 40, who is a fundraising co-chair for the Lake City Pool Project. “This is a big prize, and it’s exciting to see how it has revitalized interest in fundraising efforts for the pool.”
Contest inspires fundraising challenges
Lake City’s existing swimming pool, which opened in 1957, has reached the end of its feasible useful life and needs to be replaced. In recent years, the community has raised more than $830,000 for the town’s proposed new pool, which will include a zero-depth entry area, a lap pool with six swimming lanes, diving and play features, an updated bathhouse and concession areas, and expanded room for relaxation.
The “We Hear You America” campaign has been a positive experience for Lake City, said Kimberly Kelly, city administrator. “This contest has demonstrated the unity in our community and the tremendous support for the pool project. People of all ages are voting, new friendships have developed, and friends, family and alumni have joined in to help Lake City achieve the first-place position.”
“We Hear You America” is a grassroots movement driven by community spirit, said Liz Vaccariello, Reader’s Digest chief content officer and editor-in-chief. “People have always turned to Reader’s Digest for the best stories in America.
“We wanted to turn the tables and have America tell us what’s interesting and inspiring. We also wanted to cut through the bureaucracy and red tape to help towns fund projects and enhance community pride.”
Any town is eligible to win the “”We Hear You America,” campaign, regardless of population. Last year’s grand prize winner, Grand Marais, Mich., population 300, attained more than 1.28 million votes and won $40,000, which is being used to repair the town’s damaged sea wall. A number of Iowa communities are participating in the current contest, including Story City, LeMars and West Union.
In Lake City, the “We Hear You America” campaign has sparked a number of fundraising challenges, including one during the Jan. 3 vote-a-thon. If volunteers logged a one-day total of 150,000 votes, an anonymous donor agreed to give $1,500 to the pool.
Lake City supporters responded by setting a new one-day voting record of 154,434 votes.
We’re leveraging the excitement this competition is generating to bring in more local money,” said Olson, who issued her own fundraising challenge on her birthday on Dec. 18. This led to five additional matching pledges that generated more than $500 in donations to the pool project. “Our motto is ‘every voter matters; every vote counts,’ and it’s great to see how people are voting daily to keep Lake City in the lead.”
Pool enhances small town living
Groups like the local swim team, which boasts more than 80 members, have hosted their own vote-a-thons to support the pool project, said Kelly, who added that area farmers also donated grain at local elevators this fall to support the “Fill the Pool with Grain” fundraising campaign.
“It’s essential for Lake City to maintain an outdoor pool,” Kelly said. “In addition to providing recreation and fitness for all ages, the pool is an important part of economic development and can be the deciding factor when families are choosing where to live.”
The pool was a big selling point for Lake City when Dr. David and Wendy Frate moved to Iowa from Virginia Beach, Va., in July 2010. “Our children love to swim, and living close to the pool is a perk of small-town living,” said Wendy Frate, 35, a mother of four young children, whose husband is a physician at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City. “When we first came to Lake City, we were remodeling our house and didn’t know many people in town, so the pool was our saving grace that first summer.”
Lake City plans to host another community-wide vote-a-thon from 1p.m. to 5 p.m., on Jan. 15 at the library for the “We Hear You America” campaign, which ends March 1. Supporters can also register to vote at wehearyouamerica.readersdigest.com and use zip code 51449 to vote as often as they wish from their personal computers.
To learn more about the Lake City Pool Project, visit www.lakecitypoolproject.com.
“Being first in the nation really captivates people’s interest in this campaign, and Lake City is a small enough community that everyone feels they have a stake in this,”Olson said. “We want to keep up this momentum.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at email@example.com.
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