Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

September 15, 2012

Main Street forced to get creative

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Getting creative and finding new ways to raise money has these days become even more of a major focus for one organization looking after Pauls Valley's downtown area.

The recent loss of one source of funding now has the Main Street Pauls Valley program looking for new ways to make up the difference and ultimately stay afloat.

One answer comes in the form of hopefully bigger and better events designed to not only raise money for the non-profit program but continue to bring in the community to join in on the fun.

That's why program director Samantha Robb is now looking to strengthen a festival right around the corner and expand a festive holiday idea this fall, along with a kind of non-event that helps out with fundraising.

First up is the Oklahoma Heritage Quilts and Arts Festival and car show put on by Pauls Valley’s police department - both coming to the downtown area on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Then with the great turnout last year at a Halloween zombie group dance during the local Boo on the Bricks event Robb chose to add a new family-oriented festival and run with zombies as the theme.

The Living Dead Center Festival and Zombie 5K Run will come on Oct. 27 at the local Arts and Cultural Center.

There's also the first ever Phantom Fundraiser Ball, which is not exactly an event but more of a plea for the public to give a little extra help to the local Main Street program.

“Usually with a fundraiser someone is working all night baking cookies or getting ready for some event,” Robb said.

“We came up with the idea for a fundraiser where you don't have to do anything,” she said, referring to the Phantom Fundraiser Ball.

“It's a humorous way of asking for extra donations. There's no actual ball. It's a tongue-in-cheek way of saying help!”

The big hit came in June when city funding previously given to the Main Street program and the local chamber of commerce was pulled and has been used to create a new position overseeing local tourism and economic development.

Losing the annual contribution of city funds represents a major loss for Main Street, Robb said.

“We've lost 25 percent from an already lean budget,” Robb said. “It's scary. We're a non-profit so we start each fiscal year at zero.

“Losing the city funds was one fourth of our budget so it's a big deal,” she said.

“My main focus this year, unfortunately, has to be fundraising. I'm working desperately to keep Main Street going.

“I don't want it to be gone. We need the Main Street program.”

Previously the program was receiving just over $13,000 a year in city funding.

According to Robb, the Oklahoma Main Street Center has a model that calls for local Main Street programs to be funded with one third splits coming from a local municipal government, memberships and fundraisers.

For her personally Robb was hoping her job as Main Street director would start allowing her to get medical insurance as a benefit.

With that no longer possible Robb is forced to wonder about her future.

“I don't have any benefits,” she said. “I had hoped this year we could afford for me to get medical insurance.”

Currently Robb is included in her husband's benefit package through his state job. That could be threatened in the future if he retires in the next couple of years.

Even with this personal focus on getting the insurance coverage as part of an employment benefit, Robb says it's her love of the Main Street program and for Pauls Valley that keeps driving her forward.

“I have a passion for Main Street, this community, the board, the people here,” Robb said. “I couldn't ask for a better group of people.

“I want people to understand I'm not looking for something else. I love what I do. I love being a part of the community process; being a part of something that gives to the community; doing something that helps the common good.”