By every measure the Presque Isle Rotary Club’s Great Big Give Back was a great big success.  From the number of tickets sold and funds raised, to community service and shop local pledges, the pandemic time retooling of the club’s annual auction exceeded all expectations, and will result in even greater benefit to four local projects.

“We are beyond excited and so incredibly grateful to everyone who whole-heartedly embraced this effort to give back to our community. Because of all the support we received, not only was our event a smashing success, it’s also created this wave of giving that will continue to ripple out into our community for some time to come,” said Rachel Rice, who along with fellow Presque Isle Rotarian Chantal Pelletier, co-chaired the Great Big Give Back.

The project, initiated last fall, was postponed to the New Year after the overwhelmingly positive response and generous outpouring of support by area businesses and organizations had coordinators look to expand the effort and extend the timeline.  The positive response from the local business community extended to the County community at large as the various components of the project went live starting in late January through March 17.

In that timeframe, Rotarians had hoped to sell 2,000 of the Great Big Give Back Great Big Basket $10 raffle tickets for the five impressive baskets filled with both purchased and donated gift certificates and merchandise, each valued at almost $2,000.  The Ticket sales, and associated fundraising, goal for that component was bested by more than 25 percent, with a total of 2,584 tickets sold and $25,840 raised.

Lucky winners for the five Great Big Basket raffle winners were: Scott Violette, Nancy Fletcher, Dave and Carla Cambridge, Curt Paterson, and Jennifer Caron.  Each basket included a mix of gift cards to local shops and restaurants, gift certificates for local services and recreational opportunities, electronics, fuel oil, gas cards, and more.  Also included in each were signature items like an iPad, chainsaw, or a gaming chair. 

Along with the raffle, PI Rotarians set aside 14 “big ticket” items – with a total value of more than $6,500 – to bring a piece of the Club’s annual Rotary Auction into this year’s project. Coordinated and run by Gregg Auctions, items up for bid ranged from $3,000 toward a heat pump and hotel accommodations to college tuition certificates and tools. 

By the end of the St. Patrick’s Day Facebook Live event, which served as the fundraiser finale, the auction had raised $6,000, or 91 percent of the value of the items up for bid.  The total raised included a very generous donation by community member Karen St. Peter, who pledged to fund the balance of a challenge issued early on in the broadcast by the event co-chairs indicating they would take pies to the face if the auction proceeds met or exceeded the $6,000 mark.

“We anticipated the pandemic to create major challenges for us early on, however, it is important to reflect upon the silver linings that it also created.  Throughout re-engineering the Presque Isle Rotary Club’s signature event during its 73rd year, the one thing that we never once doubted was the incredible generous community that supports us year after year, and that they would ensure that we would not only meet but exceed our goal.  Last minute raffle tickets soared, as well as auction bid totals during the final night.  The community continued to step up in so many ways and we can’t thank them enough,” said Pelletier. “The phenomenal results of our collective fundraising efforts as a club will mean more support for the four local initiatives we are funding with proceeds from the Great Big Give Back.”

Donations, totaling around $7,000 each will now be directed to the Presque Isle Rotary Club Scholarship Fund, United Way of Aroostook’s COVID-19 Response Fund, and the 2021 Crown of Maine Balloon Festival and Northern Maine Fair, two major Presque Isle-based regional events that canceled their official 2020 activities because of the pandemic

It’s not only the four Great Big Give Back funded partners who will benefit from the project.  In addition to the two fundraising components, Rotarians asked community members to make shop local pledges and commit hours of pledged community service to local organizations through 2021.  As the Facebook Live finale event came to a close, a total of 752 shop local pledges were made and 4,597 hours of community service were committed by local citizens – more than four times the initial goal of 1,000 hours.

“The success of the Great Big Give Back is truly the result of a community effort,” said Rice. “It is to the credit of everyone who sold tickets, bought tickets, made donations and made pledges.  It would not have been possible without our amazing local businesses and organizations who have made our past annual auctions, and now this event, successful.”

Rice and Pelletier both acknowledge the efforts of several key entities who were instrumental in the getting the project off the ground.  Among them Matt Gregg of Gregg Auctions, host of the on-line auction; Governor’s Restaurant, host site of the finale Facebook Live event; and communication partners WAGM-TV, Printworks and Townsquare Media.

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In addition to Rice and Pelletier, the Great Big Give Back Project had key contributions from Rotarians Sarah Ennis, Matt Bouchard, Jordyn Madore, Jason Parent, Jamie Guerrette, Clint Deschene, Floyd Rockholt, Sean Nordenhold, Mandy Pooler, Jan Lucas, Frank Bemis and Dick Engels.

P Rotary Great Big Give Back Photo Gallery