Supporters of the South Coastal Library on Saturday jump-started a three-year campaign to raise $3.5 million for library expansion with the first annual Harvest Ball at the Baycenter in Dewey Beach.
Among the estimated 130 guests were County Councilman Vance Phillips (R–5th) and Rep. Gerald Hocker (R–38th), a strong proponent for the expansion who spoke at Saturday’s event.
“When you see expansion, that shows success,” Hocker said just before his speech. In that speech, he noted his efforts toward expanding to a 10,000-square-foot library more than a decade ago and remembered a time when the now-flourishing library called a 480-square-foot trailer its home. “Education is the most important thing,” Hocker added. “What better way to educate yourself than through a book?”
The state has already budged $2.4 million for South Coastal’s expansion and Sussex County added another $1.4 in its most recent fiscal plan.
The $6 million expansion will at least double the size of the current building, adding more conference, training and multi-purpose rooms for programs, and will update the current section that already serves more than 120,000 patrons annually, according to library officials. They also plan to add more technology, including computers, to the building, using the money raised.
The Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL), a group that organizes fundraising efforts for the library, has already raised $500,000 toward the expansion.
“We’re going to raise enough money so we can update the old space so it doesn’t look old,” as well as adding on, said FOSCL Director of Development Mary Lou Tietz, who is the co-chairwoman of the fundraising campaign. “In the summer (the library) is just packed. We’re real excited.”
On Saturday, the more than 100 guests in attendance browsed the silent auction from 6 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m. listening to the sounds of the locally-based Don Sharp Orchestra and enjoying an open bar at the banquet hall atop Crabber’s Cove across from Dewey’s infamous Rusty Rudder.
After a lobster/steak dinner, the live auction — which offered everything from trips to China and Florida to baskets of snacks and wine — raised more than $20,000 for the expansion effort.
“People have been incredulously generous,” said Mimi Drew, a member of FOSCL who served as an auction host Saturday. “Everybody has worked on (the Harvest Ball) very hard.”
Sue Sterner, the current head of FOSCL, said the night that took the friends more than 7 months to plan exceeded her expectations.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I was surprised. I had no idea how pretty this room was. We just wanted to do something different,” Sterner added about the ball,” something that would bring people together to enjoy themselves and still help the library.”
And after a seemingly successful event, it’s likely that this year’s Harvest Ball will not be the last.
“This we hope can be an annual thing,” Tietz said, “even when the campaign is over.”