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Community Interest

HIGH SPRINGS – The Madness and Mayhem event held recently in conjunction with Halloween, scared up some funding to help out three non-profit organizations whose members volunteered their time to the frightening haunted house. The High Springs Historical Society Museum, Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) and Plenty of Pit Bulls (POPB) each received $1,468 for their efforts in support of the production of M&M.

Presentation of each organization's check took place on Sunday, Nov. 16, and was made at a location that represented each group's interest. The steps leading up to the Historic High Springs Elementary School and Civic Center, which currently houses the Historical Society Museum, was the ideal place for that group's presentation, while Rum Island Springs at the Santa Fe River was the site for OSFR. A Gainesville park used for dog training classes was the choice of the POPB group.

It took a few days after the event for Creative Director Chris Scott, Technical Director Andy Phelan and Volunteer/Public Relations Director Terry Phelan to tally up the volunteer hours from each organization, said Bob Watson, President of High Springs Historical Society Museum.

Although the original plan was to divide the money based on each group's participation, “The number of volunteer hours from all three groups were close and they were all in it to the end,” said Terry Phelan. “Under the circumstances, we decided the best way to divide the proceeds was equally,” she said. “We left the 50 cents off of the presentation check, but they got it in the actual check,” said Phelan with a chuckle.

“It took 80 volunteers and thousands of hours to put this together and then take it all down again,” said Phelan. “It was remarkable how many people pitched in. Our volunteers were incredible,” she said.

Pointing to one in particular, she mentioned Kent Brush, an artist who specializes in construction and design. “There were times he stayed until 3:30 a.m. to finish something he was working on. People sometimes volunteered their time for 12 hours or more in order to get everything completed on time,” said Phelan.

In talking about what the Historical Society's contributions were to the project, Watson said their volunteers helped build some of the sets and props for the haunted house, which was located this year at the city's Historic High Springs Elementary School and Community Center, behind City Hall. “We helped put up the fence, set up and break down the sets, helped with lighting and a couple of our people helped out with sound,” he said. “We probably had at least 1,000 volunteer hours into the set up and cleanup effort,” said Watson.

While all three groups worked together to accomplish everything, some volunteers specialized in costuming and makeup, others in set design, painting and construction. “There was always something to do and all of our volunteers participated in all aspects of this project,” said Phelan.

Asked about what was the worst part of the cleanup, Watson volunteered that the women's restroom was the worst. “People did makeup in the women's restroom and costuming in the men's restroom. There was fake blood everywhere in the women's room. If you didn't know any better, you would think a real massacre had occurred in there,” he said.

It took two days to clean up the old building and bring it back to normal, said Terry Phelan. Watson, whose museum is housed in the same building as the haunted house, corroborated her story. “You'd never know anything had happened in there now,” he said.

Watson said the proceeds his group received from this event will be put into a reserve account for the organization's many projects. “The money could be used for repairs to the city's first 1927 Brockway La France fire engine, a structure to house it or any one of the many other projects the museum is working on currently.”

OSFR President Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson said their organization would be using their charitable donation for stationary and portable scanners. One of their projects involves a search for photos of the Santa Fe River that are 20 years old or older to archive, as well as to compare past and present water levels of the river.

POPB will use their donation to help support their efforts to foster and place pit bulls into forever homes. “We are always looking for foster homes,” said POPB President Anna Peterson. The donation they received is not earmarked for one item, but will be used to help the organization continue to provide free veterinary care, training, food, toys and other accessories like collars and leashes. POPB not only provides free training for all dogs in foster care, but continues to provide additional training after an animal is adopted.

This year's haunted house fundraiser was so successful that the three co-directors have decided to begin the process of becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization. “Our endeavors will be to raise money for local charities through a haunted house experience,” said Phelan. “Our choice of charities will focus on those in which there are no paid employees.”

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