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Creative community supporters raise funds, fun for Lifesteps

Rotarians work the grill at the 2022 Election Day Pancake Festival at the Tanglewood Center. Submitted photo

Volunteers have served as a support system for Lifesteps for a century. Before there were paid staff to manage programs and services, volunteers stepped up to the plate.

Today, volunteers still play a vital role in helping the nonprofit service organization achieve its vision of improving the quality of life for members of the community by helping to raise much-needed funds.

Since Lifesteps’ inception, dedicated volunteers have come up with creative ways to encourage the community to open its wallets.

In its earliest days, when it was called the Butler County Society for Crippled Children, the Rotarians who spearheaded the organization held fundraisers such as Motion Picture Night at the Capitol Theater and the “Down to the Sea in Ships” photo play. Admission was 55 cents, according to advertisements for the events in old issues of the Butler Eagle.

Lifesteps Look Back: A mile lined the sidewalks in downtown Butler in 1959 to raise funds to help the children. Submitted photo

Longtime Rotarian Bill Douthett III participated in a pennies for the children fundraiser in 1959 that encouraged residents to line the sidewalks of downtown Butler with donated pennies to fill the organization’s coffers.

Another popular fundraiser that launched in 1959 with the help of the Rotary and still carries on today. The Rotary’s Election Day Pancake Festival is an all-day event held at the Tanglewood Center that includes tasty pancakes, sausages and a beverage. Tickets cost $8 at the door. Rotarians volunteer their time to cook and serve up the meal throughout the day, with proceeds going to Lifesteps Family Caring Fund.

Millie Pinkerton, a Rotarian, said it’s the main fundraiser Rotary holds each year to benefit the nonprofit service agency. Other popular fundraisers she’s helped with include the annual golf outing and the Star Gala.

2022 Star Gala recipient Sarah Harris, second from left, along with Kelly Giles and Mickey Bell, right, co-chairpersons, present Brian Long from Seubert and Associates with Sarah’s autographed artist apron. Submitted photo

The gala is held in November and honors those who inspire as well as celebrate Lifesteps’ life-changing mission. The evening includes dinner, drinks, music, a silent auction and more. Since its inception in 2007, the gala has raised more than $690,000 for the Lifesteps Family Caring Fund.

The Lifesteps Family Caring Fund’s primary purpose is to benefit programs and services by paying for expenditures not otherwise reimbursed by federal, state or county grants and contracts.

Lifesteps board member Jeanne McLaughlin said when the community sets its mind to it, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful fundraiser. She noted the center on Eberhart and New Castle roads as the perfect example.

“We had a management company tell us Butler couldn’t support a million-dollar capital campaign to fund that building, and yet, Butler did it,” she said. “The whole community got involved and got it done.”

Butler County Commissioners Chairwoman Leslie Osche said during her tenure as the organization’s vice president of development and community relations that people always seemed willing to come out to whatever fundraising events Lifesteps was hosting.

Owens said Lifesteps is fortunate to have such dedicated community members to volunteer to organize and host fundraisers, provide support and participate at events.

“There have been so many different and unique fundraisers over the decades,” Owens said. “I’m very grateful to the community for the support that they’ve given to our organization over the last 100 years so we could carry out the mission and vision. It’s very humbling.”

Board member Peter Kyne III agreed.

“The strong community support and engagement we’ve cultivated over the years have been vital to our longevity and success,” he said. “The dedication of our staff, volunteers, donors, supporters and board members have created a robust foundation that allows us to continue making a positive impact in our community.”

Lifesteps Look Back: Rotarians flip pancakes while raising funds. Submitted photo
Lifesteps Look Back: An early pancake ticket for the 1961 fundraiser. Submitted photo
Lifesteps Look Back: Dr. LeRoy Eisler sinks a hole in one at the Butler County Easter Seal Society fundraising event. Submitted photo

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