Gift breathes life into library foundation

Donation of nearly $12,000 from disbanded civic organization will be used to start fundraising organization that supports Niederkorn Library in Port

AN EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT was presented to the Port Washington Library Board last week — an almost $12,000 check to help create a library foundation. The funds were raised by the now defunct Port Washington Saukville Jaycees. Accepting the funds were library board members (from left) Karen Vollmar, Kay Goodwin, Marie Zirbes, Ald. Patrick Tearney, Justin Ritter, Library Director Tom Carson, Ald. Mike Gasper — a member of the Jaycees and the Broadcasting Group who proposed the donation — Bill Lundgren, Tom Hudson, Bob Bretl and Port Washington-Saukville School Supt. Mike Weber . Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

The Niederkorn Library in Port Washington received a special Christmas gift last week — an almost $12,000 donation from the defunct Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees.

The donation will help provide seed money for the Niederkorn Library Foundation, which Library Director Tom Carson hopes to start next year.

“The goal is for us to help supplement the library’s budget and enhance our services,” Carson said. 

Library foundations, he said, are common today.

“Sometimes we’re not a priority (at budget time),” Carson said. “Fire and police are, which makes sense. But that means we have to come up with different ways to raise revenue.

“It’s important we use taxpayer money wisely. We try to use the money to create collections and offer programs people want. But sometimes, that’s not enough.”

A foundation, Carson said, provides a tax-deductible way for people to make contributions to the library and for the library to see these donations grow.

The library would use the earnings from the foundation to do future planning, enhance its collection, provide special programming and speakers or purchase technology.

“This is a great way, if we need to develop a capital improvement fund, to do so,” Carson said. 

The Niederkorn Library “has great bones. But we have to start to think about the future and how we define our library. We have to look at the big picture and long term so we can continue to meet the needs of our users. The library really is a community center, and to meet that need we need to improve.”

The building, he said, is lacking study rooms and conference rooms, and it is not energy efficient. Updates are also needed for such facilities as the restrooms. “I think we have a great library. But the library addition is almost 20 years old,” Carson said. “The library has changed dramatically since 2002.”

The library is about halfway to its goal of raising $105,000 to form the foundation, which would be run through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Carson said.

“It’s a very efficient and effective way to begin and run a library foundation,” he said. “We need to raise at least $100,000, which really gives us a good starting point to earn additional money.

“They (the Greater Milwaukee Foundation) invest it and run the foundation for a small fee. They provide a lot of expertise.”

A number of local nonprofit groups use the Greater Milwaukee Foundation because of the expertise it provides, Carson noted.

The foundation would be separate from the Friends of the Niederkorn Library, a group Carson said he hopes to reinvigorate in the coming year.

“They would be separate entities but they would work together,” he said, adding that’s a common structure around the state.

The donation to the foundation from the Jaycees took a circuitous route before it was presented to the Port Washington Library Board on Dec. 21. 

When the Jaycees disbanded about four years ago, it had about $30,000 in the bank, money that the group donated to various community causes, said Ald. Mike Gasper, who was vice president of the group at the time.

One of those was the Port Washington Community Broadcasting Group, which had hoped to start a local radio station. That effort didn’t pan out, causing Gasper — who was involved in both organizations — to look for another place for the funding.

A talk with Carson provided the impetus for the library donation.

“The Jaycees, we want the money to go back to the community,” Gasper said, noting many of the members frequent the library. 

“This will help put the library on a better footing for the future,” he said, noting municipal budgets are tight and the Port library is funded less on a per capita basis than many surrounding libraries.

“The facilities here are OK but they could be better,” Gasper said. “That’s something we can work toward, and this (foundation) is one way to do that without always going to the city for funding.”

Carson said his personal goal is to raise the money for the foundation by National Library Week in April, but he said a more realistic goal is to reach the milestone by the end of 2019.

To do this, he said, he will be talking to businesses and individuals about the foundation and what it can provide for the community.

The library may also host “a few fun fundraisers,” he said.

“The citizens in Port are very generous,” he said. “I have a really good feeling about the community. Everyone seems to love the Niederkorn Library.

“Port Washington is an amazing community, and it deserves an outstanding library.”

Anyone interested in getting more information about or contributing to the Niederkorn Library Foundation is asked to call Carson at 284-5031.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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