For the first time in the 21-year history of the Paxton Challenge for Charities, more than $1 million was raised through community efforts for nonprofit organizations.
While the total exceeded $1 million in 2020 and 2021, that included the matching funds provided by the Community Foundation of West Kentucky and the Fred and Peggy Paxton Endowment.
The record total announcement was made at the event-closing celebration luncheon held Thursday at Walker Hall Event Center.
Nonprofit organizations raised their funds from June 1 through Aug. 31, a three-month venture to bolster community giving and local nonprofit awareness.
The 24 nonprofit organizations taking part in this year’s Challenge raised $1.14 million for their organizations, setting an event record. Each organization raising at least $2,500 qualified for matching funds with a maximum of $10,000.
The matching funds go to the nonprofits to start or enhance their own endowment to do with as they choose, a kind of additional reward for their efforts.
This year’s matching funds totaled $219,575 for a grand total raised of $1.36 million.
Last year, organizations raised $938,591 with an additional $228,191 in matching funds providing for a grand total of $1.17 million.
The Paducah Public Schools Foundation led the way this year by raising $394,916. Hope Unlimited was second with $125,926 and Child Watch was third at $118,460. The top 20 fundraisers each earned the maximum $10,000 match. Those who raised $2,500 to $10,000 received 100% matching funds for what they raised.
Tony Watkins, the chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of West Kentucky, announced one newcomer to the field of fundraisers, welcoming the Paducah Football Association Inc., which raised $1,000.
“I’m very excited; I’m more excited for the nonprofits than I am for the Community Foundation,” Watkins told the media after the event. “We work hard on this event. We made it through two years of COVID (raising more than $1 million in each of those years).
“I think it’s very helpful to bring nonprofits together to have a celebration like this. They don’t get to celebrate very often together — and let the community know what they do for the community.”
Watkins credited nonprofit organizations being “stir-crazy” from the COVID-19 pandemic for the record fundraising total.
“We haven’t been able to get together for a couple of years,” he said. “They know who their donors are. They know how to add through their relationships with their donors, and the donors responded.
“Every one of those dollars represents a changed life. We don’t always get to see the faces that we know will benefit from this.”
Watkins said the total money raised speaks well of the local community.
“We’ve always said that Paducah is a very giving community,” he said. “That trust factor goes a long way, seeing the Paxton name, seeing the Community Foundation name, knowing that we are partnered together with most of these nonprofits — it takes the fear factor out of giving, and we just build on that year after year after year.
“It seems like we just started (the Paxton Challenge for Charities) yesterday for some reason. It just keeps getting bigger and better ever year. It excites us; it excites these nonprofits. You can’t put a lid on what God can do. He continues to surprise us every day, if you’ll let him.”
The Paxton Challenge for Charities is named for Fred and Peggy Paxton, local philanthropists whose endowment also benefits the annual PaxtonScholars program, which provides six scholarships to high school juniors through the McCracken County Community Career Endowment Inc. The 13th class will be announced in December. Applications for the scholarship are available at area schools.
Fred Paxton was a former chairman of the board and president of Paxton Media Group — which owns The Paducah Sun and WPSD-TV — and was a publisher for The Sun.
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