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--- Updated April 30, 2008

The Erie Housing Authority placed among the top five teams in this year's March of Dimes fundraising efforts, along with GE, K-Mart, Erie Insurance, and the Erie School District.

The Authority raised a total of $11,545 for the campaign, smashing its goal of $8,000 and far surpassing last year's total of $5,700.

The sock hops at the senior highrise buildings, such as the one at Schmid
Towers above, were one of the ways HACE passed the $11,000 mark.

One hundred ninety-seven teams participated in this year's campaign, with the average amount raised per team being about $3,000.

"The thing that boggles my mind is these others in the top five are all very, very large employers, much larger than the Erie Housing Authority, and yet the Authority managed to place with them," said Laura King, community director for the Northwest Pennsylvania March of Dimes and coordinator of the March for Babies campaign.

"The Housing Authority is our poster team for other teams to follow," she said. "It is very creative in the ways it incorporates team walk-money, for the walk on Presque Isle, with year-round wraparound events like selling Beanie Babies, candy bars, Bluejeans for Babies, and sock hops for seniors. I was blown away by the sock hops -- what a wonderful way to raise money for an organization and to also have fun."

King said these "wraparound events" worked perfectly in conjunction with -- "wrapping around" -- the March for Babies held Sunday, April 27, at Presque Isle.

For instance, residents of Schmid Towers raised $210 for the March of Dimes through a "sock hop" fundraiser held Friday, April 11, from 6-8 p.m. at the Schmid Towers Community room.

The event, shown in the above photo, was coordinated by Lynn Yusz of the HomePLUS program, activities director for HACE senior buildings -- Schmid Towers and Friendship Apartments. Activities included swing dancing, root beer floats, a drive-in movie, staged photos with images of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, a raffle, and a balloon drop.

Yusz was assisted by volunteers from the Housing Authority staff, students from the Mercyhurst College Cross Country Team, HomePLUS, and Pat Mickel of the Erie Tenant Council. More than 50 residents attended.

Another sock-hop March of Dimes fundraiser was held at Friendship Towers Friday, April 11, at Friendship Apartments, also from 6-8 p.m.More than $200 was raised there.

The Authority also raised money from everything from Bingo nights at Schmid Towers, to pledges from youth programs and the HomePLUS progam.

"That's what we strive for," King said. "We'd like every team to incorporate events like that throughout the year. I think the best way to raise money is to do it in a variety of ways and to be creative, because it makes a much bigger impact on not only the individual donors, but also as a team, when they don't just look at it as another walk for another organization. What the Authority does is a yearlong campaign, not just one walk."

The goal for the March for Babies campaign this year was $221,000. "We raised between $225,000 and $230,000, thanks to efforts of organizations like the Erie Housing Authority," King said.

King said the Authority may have a chance of surpassing the much larger Erie School District in donations this year. "It will be close," she said, noting the final tally will be completed in late May. The sixth place team after the Authority and the Erie School District raised about $7,500.

"I'll never forget how, in January, John Horan said the Authority's goal was to raise $8,000," King said. "That was pretty ambitious, considering its total from the year before was $5,700. I remember thinking, 'Well, that's a pretty good goal guys. Let's see what we can do.' When I saw the Authority's sign for $11,545, my eyes welled up with tears."

"To blow that goal out of the water like that, it's just ... amazing."