By Sue Moore
Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations. The Vicksburg Sports Boosters have been hugely successful over the years because of their dedicated volunteers. The money they have raised to support athletes in Vicksburg Community Schools has been the key to being sure there was no “pay to play” necessary, even when school budgets had to be cut.
The revenue to support athletic programs began over 40 years ago when Evelyn Brockway almost single-handedly took on overseeing bingo, a huge fundraiser for the Boosters. With plenty of foresight, the board of directors in the early years decided to put 10 percent of the annual proceeds in an endowment fund with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. They only use interest earned on this investment to purchase items for the athletic program along with the other big fundraisers they promote.
They include the annual golf outing, the Booster Bounce, operating concessions at athletic events and for Rocket football and of course bingo. Nicole Dalman, secretary of the organization, pointed out that it takes a multitude of volunteers to run these programs successfully but asked where do they come from nowadays? She herself is a most recent volunteer; her son is participating in athletics in 8th grade. Previously, she was PTO treasurer at Indian Lake school.
Steve Thomas, who has a son running cross country and track, has volunteered to run the concessions program which Dalman estimates will take up to 30 hours a week of his off-work time. To lighten his load, plenty of volunteers are needed to run concessions during Rocket football in the fall and at various sporting events throughout the year. His load has been made considerably easier with a system set up by former volunteers who ran concessions – Dave and Chris Gearig, Cindy Johnson and Tony and Laurie Stock, who set up a supply chain system. Thomas also helps maintain the Little League fields.
More volunteers are needed for bingo on Friday nights, especially for record keeping. Brockway’s granddaughter, Katrina Holmes, runs bingo these days and can’t do it all by herself, Dalman said. The Booster Bounce has been a project of Diane Fort and Cheryl Grabowski in the past but their student athletes have moved on to college. Melissa and Ed Mullins offer to help whenever asked.
The golf outing has been run by Boosters Treasurer Tracy Lovell, President Josh Baird, Vice President Mindy Reno and the ever-reliable Maryann Willmeng. The fall, winter and spring sports programs that the Boosters publish has been led by Willmeng for many years. It is a terrific fundraiser for the organization and a whole lot of work for her, Dalman said.
The board of directors decides how the money is spent, Baird said. The coaches make their requests and the board’s representative for each sport works with the coaches to find out the critical needs. This year, Athletic Director Mike Roy had a critical need for a new windscreen and signage for the high school stadium that took precedence in funding matters, Baird said.
Some of the big-ticket items the Boosters purchased in the last two years include: $3,125 for football helmets and coaches’ clinics; $1,724 for boys and girls track blocks, discus, shot put and a tent; a $5,000 soccer windscreen; $2,290 competitive cheer mat roller, straps, clinic; $2,325 baseball bases, anchor plugs, drag mat, batting cage, $14,000 in tournament fees for Middle and High School kids and $4,000 in scholarships to senior athletes.
“We are good at investing in the balls and the nets for our athletes,” Baird said. “Of greater importance is the investment we make in the emotional well-being of our student athletes. It’s a great place to get involved to make a big difference in the lives of the future generation.”