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The team working to bring the vision of the Rise Risley campus to life announced this week a fundraising initiative that could support significant progress on renovation work at the site.

The Rise Risley project has been approved to compete and participate in “A Community Thrives Challenge and Grant Program,” a grantmaking and crowdfunding program from the USA Today Network. The challenge will run through Aug. 13.

The Rise Risley initiative aims to bring numerous education, enrichment, health and social service providers to a single physical location on Albany Street that is accessible to people who most need the services.

Jim Porch, a volunteer with the initiative who spearheaded this fundraising opportunity, said he came across the Community Thrives program during routine research for grants and other fundraising opportunities.

“It just seemed to be right up our alley because it’s geared more towards individual investors, and you can give a donation as low as $5 or as much as you want,” he said. “There are prizes based on how much money you raise and then of course based on how many donors you get.”

The goal is to raise $250,000 to replace the roof and make other repairs to the Elementary Building on the historic Risley campus. Funding will also go toward putting a fire sprinkler and safety system into the Jackson Building.

The Jackson Building will then become home to a Head Start program, and the Elementary Building will host 15-20 other social service organizations that will provide key services to underserved community members.

“If we can raise the money to complete the roof and update the second level to some extent, we can now put those organizations in place and then that whole building is occupied,” Porch said.

The total budget for the two projects is $435,000, of which $185,000 has been raised already through grants and other funding.

The city awarded the Rise Risley team with an $85,000 grant to be used for roof work, and a second donation will cover other types of work on the building, like bathroom renovations, paint jobs and possibly new carpeting.

“But it’s mostly all cosmetic,” Porch said. “All we’re trying to do right now is cosmetic, so that we can get people in and using the space. We may go back at some point in time and do a more robust renovation of all the space.”

In addition to the funds raised directly, Rise Risley will compete to earn up to $50,000 and to be awarded one of the 16 merits grants of up to $100,000.

Donor support is needed now to make these opportunities possible.

Supporters are also asked to compile a contact list of friends and associates.

“This is the core of the Friendsraising or Crowd Funding Challenge,” according to an announcement sent by Rise Risley. “We will need every one of us to send out this information to as many folks as we can. And hope and pray that they send it out to as many as they can. And so on and so on.”

To further support the effort, the team asked social media users to like and follow the project on Facebook, to like Rise Risley’s posts and to follow the project on Twitter.

This fundraiser will help the initiative take concrete steps forward, Porch said.

“It’s always been this struggle of how do we do a grand project, because if we did everything we wanted to do at Rise Risley at the same time it could be millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “But through COVID of course things were pretty much shut down, and we now have the opportunity to do two very small, discreet projects.”

These projects will serve as a foundation that can spur further activity and progress on the campus, Porch said.

“I just feel this is something that the community can rally behind because I think it will make a difference in the lives of so many,” he said.

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