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September/october 2009

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A series of articles focusing on VVA chapters and the fundraising strategies they have developed

The Brookings-Harbor community is on the southern-most part of Oregon’s rugged and scenic coast, just a few miles north of the California border. Located in the so-called “Banana Belt,” it has mild winters and cool, rainy summers.
Tourism, lumber, fishing, the nearby Pelican Bay Prison, and retirees are the main sources of income. As the Portland Oregonian put it: “If the Oregon map were divided by military service, this coastal village on the southwest coast would be known as Veterans Land.” 
The county is conservative in many ways, but progressive in others. The chance of having a tax increase or a bond issue approved here is slim, but if there’s a local family in need, people will stand in line to deposit donations at one of the local banks.
For the past fourteen years, VVA Chapter 757 has sponsored a free annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the Port of Brookings-Harbor. All of the funds are donated by the community through the hard work of our chapter. Preparations for the show begin in January.
For many years, our members went door to door soliciting businesses, taking collections in front of stores, and requesting donations from individuals. During the past several years, fundraising has become easier because local air personality Steve Braun spends time suspended in the air in the boom of a cherry picker—broadcasting on KURY Radio—until sufficient funds are raised.
VVA and AVVA members—joined by the Brookings-Harbor High School cheerleaders and sports teams, Lions Club, Redshirts, Marine Corps League, and employees of Chetco Federal Credit Union—line Highway 101 through town collecting cash donations. Businesses challenge each other to match pledges. All of this is aired on the radio and coverage is provided in the local newspaper. Last year, in just two days we raised more than $20,000 to cover the cost of the fireworks show.
This year, despite the poor economy and a storm that dropped two inches of rain in one day, more than $23,000 was raised in less than three days. Much of the money came from local businessmen who realized that the fireworks show is a money-maker for them. Individual donations accounted for about 25 percent of the total. Nearly everyone who donated said, “Thank you for your service.” This is our stimulus package for our community.
The funds are used only for the fireworks show. More than a ton of fireworks was purchased.
In the past, The Avenue of The Flags was a major venture we used to raise funds for our other chapter activities. On national holidays, the chapter placed flags for three miles on both sides of Highway 101 through town: American flags, POW/MIA flags, service flags, and tribal flags. We charged $35 to sponsor a flag.
While the program was very successful, it became increasingly burdensome. Due to the age and physical limitations of some of our members, we turned the program over to the local Boy Scout troop. They are doing a great job, raising money for their causes while teaching young men the value of patriotism.
But we needed to replace that lost revenue. A car show was suggested, one that would coincide with the Fourth of July fireworks show. It would generate revenue for the chapter without taking revenue from the fireworks program. It would also be a stand-alone event. 
While none of us had much experience in putting on a car show, a “Stayin’ Alive” feature in the November/December 2008 issue of The VVA Veteran spurred us on. VVA Chapter 582 in Chico, California, gave us a real head start. We borrowed heavily from the information they supplied. They were a great help and totally unselfish in sharing what they had. Let’s hear it for Chapter 582.
A small group of us, led by Ron Sutton and his wife Sandy, met a couple of times a month at a local restaurant. Ron Hughes, Frank Van Meter, Jack Carson, Ron and Sandy Sutton, and I came up with ideas. Then we kicked them around. The great thing was that no one had an overweaning ego. We just wanted this thing to work and be successful. And we wanted something that we could build on.
Lucky 7 Casino in nearby Smith River, California, had sponsored charity car shows in the past and was very enthusiastic and helpful, donating $1,000 in seed money and printing fliers and posters for us. The Curry County Cruisers, a local car club, posted information on its website.
Local businesses were asked to be sponsors; in exchange for donations, their names and logos appeared on our fliers and posters. Response was good.
Food vendors, local artists, non-profit groups, and retailers were invited to set up booths to give the public more to do after looking at the cars.
The Good Medicine Drum Team—a group of musicians from local Native American tribes—supplied dancers, story tellers, and music. The dancers honored veterans during the opening ceremony. The response was so positive that they want to come back and extend the program from two hours into a four-to-six-hour powwow.
The opening ceremonies and car show were covered by the local TV station and newspaper. A surprise member of our color guard was Francis Rowan, VVA Oregon State Council President. Rowan, Chapter 757 President Sam Vitale, Sgt.-at-Arms Larry Roberts, and I carried the flags with cadence supplied by Veterans Service Officer Frank Van Meter, who was dressed in his Class A greens. 
Our first car show went off with few hitches. We had an eclectic mix of fifty cars and motorcycles. Several other car shows in the area cut down on our attendance. Another problem: We overestimated the number of t-shirts we would sell. But our 50/50 raffle and other raffles were well received. And we kept to our schedule: We had the ballots counted by closing time, and the awards were presented promptly. 
Because of the hard work of our members and associates, things went smoothly. Car registration, raffle prizes, ballot counting, and set up and tear down all went quickly and without snags.
Allan W. Stewart is secretary of VVA Chapter 757 in Brookings-Harbor, Oregon. He can be reached at




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