Fallfest holds promise for 4 charities

Helping with event, they get share of the proceeds

September 27, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Four local charitable groups are hoping for big crowds at Westminster's 24th annual Fallfest.

The event is a chance for them to raise significant amounts of money. It's also an opportunity for them to gain exposure.

"It's one of our two biggest fund-raisers of the year," said Cal Bloom, a Kiwanis member and volunteer at the festival. "It's great seeing people have fun and helping my community at the same time."

Charities compete for the chance to participate in Fallfest, which drew a record 50,000 people last year. This year, 12 charities applied to participate. The four selected, after showing they could muster the necessary volunteers and demonstrating that their fund raising would benefit the Westminster area, are: Residents Attacking Drugs, Carroll County Children's Fund, Mission of Mercy and Kiwanis Club of Westminster.

In return, the groups get an even share of the proceeds, as well as ticket sales, raffles and vendor fees after expenses are paid. The payoff for the charities can be from $500 to as high as last year's record of $5,000 each. Checks to the charities are cut in November and presented to the groups at a Common Council meeting.

The only catch is that each charity is required to provide eight volunteers each hour of Fallfest. Many applicants withdraw after realizing they don't have enough staffing.

Brian Kasik, executive board member, said the board interviews charities that serve Westminster.

It was an idea born in the early days of the festival.

"We had this leftover money, and we wondered what we could do with it. Then it became obvious. Put it back into the community," said Kasik, who takes a week's vacation from his engineering job in Randallstown to coordinate the festival on site.

Although rain is badly needed in parched Carroll County, it could dampen turnout and cut into charities' profits.

"The charities know going in that what they can expect to earn is very weather-dependent," said Carol Baublitz, a Fallfest executive board member and city Recreation Department employee. "If it's a total wash, proceeds are going to be very minimum."

The group most likely to be called on to weather storms is Carroll County Children's Fund, participating for the first time. The group is in charge of the Kids Court area, where $1 buys six activities on an outdoor basketball court. Executive Director Janet Hollinger said this year is the first that her organization had enough volunteers to meet Fallfest requirements.

"Besides begging everyone we know to help out, it's not so bad," Hollinger said. "But we need more people to get involved in our various nonprofits."

She said their share of the money will provide medical care to uninsured children and pay for a program that helps children who have been hospitalized for emotional reasons make an easier transition to school and normal life.

For the 70-year-old Kiwanis Club of Westminster, Fallfest is old hat. It spells success in five letters: B-I-N-G-O. It's an event the club has run for two years after selling soft drinks and managing Kids Court.

Bloom, a Main Street barber who recruited 50 people for the event, said his club has taken part in the festival about six times.

"We're used to it. We know what we're doing," he said.

He said the money the Kiwanis will get will go toward projects the club sponsors, such as the Key Clubs high school service organizations, the Circle K club at McDaniel College, scholarships and an orphanage in Bulgaria.

The most labor-intensive activity will be scarecrow making supervised by Residents Attacking Drugs, a Westminster group that formed four years ago in response to heroin addictions and deaths at Carroll high schools.

Underneath a white canopy, organizer Lisa Kunert surveyed bales of hay. She expected her team to make about 300 scarecrows this year at $10 apiece, $15 for ready-made ones. The team gets the bulk of its donated clothes during spring cleaning, but always has to make a run to buy pantyhose.

Kunert, whose heroin-addicted sister killed their mother three years ago, is passionate about the group's cause and the word about drug addiction.

how Fallfest helps them spread She said their share of the money will go toward educational materials and a film promoting drug prevention. RAD has made a "Heroin Kills" music video and public service announcement from their two previous Fallfests.

The Mission of Mercy landed the most enviable venue at this year's Fallfest - the covered and heated ticket booths. It's the group's second time at it.

The money they receive will go toward the operation of mobile medical clinics for people without insurance.

Though its fall black-tie gala is Mission of Mercy's primary fund-raiser, Fallfest is considered a coup.

"We need all the money we can get," said Mary Coakley, who is responsible for the group's volunteers. "I'm ready to get wet and work for hours. People will come in the rain for this. Nobody wants to miss out on it."

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