DEWITT — The Saber Team for Arts and Recreation, known as the STAR committee, soon will launch an appeal to Central Community School District residents, businesses and alumni as their campaign to raise almost five million dollars moves forward.

Numerous subcommittees have worked behind the scenes for months, preparing materials, designing strategies and meeting with corporate leaders and individuals. The common goal shared by dozens of volunteers is to raise $4.6 million to help fund an auditorium, competition gymnasium and community gym at Central High School.

Early efforts have been fruitful. With the public phase of the STAR campaign yet to begin, cash pledges are at $1.5 million, with additional in-kind donations pending. The value of in-kind contributions of construction materials and furnishings won’t be known until the public bid-letting process next spring.

Two key initiatives will kick off during Homecoming festivities on Thursday and Friday in DeWitt. Members of the Circle of Friends and Alumni Committee will host informational tables at the Homecoming parade and the Hall of Fame induction on Thursday, and at the Homecoming football game Friday. Pledge forms will be available, construction designs will be displayed and questions can be answered. Current district residents and alumni can stop at the STAR table to learn more and to complete their pledge forms.

The following week, appeal letters will be mailed to 3,500 district households and thousands more alumni of Central Community Schools.

“Our goal is to reach everyone in the Central community,” said Teresa Cahill, a Circle of Friends co-chairperson. “We plan to follow up over the next several weeks with personal phone calls to each resident.”

Cahill said they have recruited an army of volunteers who will call neighbors on the mailing list to discuss a pledge to the STAR campaign.

A separate mailing will target out-of-town alumni who aren’t included in the Friends appeal. Gene Green of DeWitt is a co-chairman of that committee, said they hope graduates of the school district will be compelled to contribute to the campaign to ensure that future students can enjoy the same athletic and performing arts opportunities they experienced at Central High School.

A third campaign organized by the Agriculture Committee encourages area farmers to donate grain to the STAR campaign at one of three elevators located within the school district. River Valley Coop, AgVantage FS, and The Feed and Grain Store have all agreed to be receptacles for contributions of corn and soybeans to the STAR project.

“Each of the elevators can split a load however the farmer likes. They can give a full load or a partial load,” said Ag chairman Joe Dierickx. “We’d like area farmers to commit a bushel per acre for the next one to five years.”

The STAR Committee was formed in 2004 with an initial assignment to find a way to build an auditorium at Central High School. The scope of the project soon widened to include a competition gymnasium and community gym as well. Several subcommittees branched from an original STAR steering committee. Members of the various teams include people who live and work in all four Central communities: DeWitt, Grand Mound, Low Moor and Welton.

Private contributions and grants to the STAR campaign will supplement two other funding sources as the Central School District plans for a $27.3 million construction project that will impact all grade levels of the district. Construction is scheduled to start in April 2010. Local Option Sales Tax funds account for $10.5 million of the construction budget and the balance of $13.9 million will be generated through a bond issue approved by voters on June 30.

In his first year leading the district, Central Superintendent Dan Peterson saw the bond referendum pass. Seven previous attempts had failed.

STAR committee members, including Co-chairmen Steve Thayer of DeWitt and Dierickx of Grand Mound, are hopeful that the positive momentum of the bond referendum and the generous nature of Central patrons will make the STAR campaign a success.

“To date, the STAR campaign truly has been a districtwide effort. It is exciting to get more and more people involved in an effort that benefits our students and our communities,” Thayer said.

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