The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 28, 2010

Local centenarian challenges Enidites to be philanthropic

By Kasey Fowler, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Maxine Austin is an Enid philanthropist and is challenging you to become one, too.

Austin’s 100th birthday is coming up Oct. 24. Her birthday wish is for Enid to be a city full of philanthropists, who together can raise a quarter of a million dollars for five local nonprofit organizations.

The organizations are Gaslight Theatre, PEGASYS community access television, Main Street Enid, Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse and Adventure Quest and Enid Symphony Orchestra.

“There just isn’t another town this size with as much to offer,” Austin said. “Count out what we have: A college, a university, a technical school, a good public school system, the oldest writer’s club in the state, the Leonardo’s museum, the largest outdoor museum built entirely by volunteers, the symphony, our own TV station, Gaslight Theatre. You just can’t find that everywhere.”

Park Avenue Thrift will match each dollar raised to $125,00. The money raised will be split evenly between the five organizations.

“It isn’t as hard as it seems (to raise $125,000). It only takes 250 people to give $500. Not everyone can do that, but that (250 people) represents less than a half a percent of the Enid population,” said Paula Nightengale, organizer of the philanthropy campaign and co-founder of Park Avenue Thrift.

All contributions are tax deductible and can be given electronically or by check. Nightengale said the donation amounts can be divided and given monthly. A $500 donation costs $41.67 per month. A $400 gift is $33.33 per month. A $300 contribution is $25 per month.

Park Avenue Thrift was formed to help nonprofits in Enid. Since its start, Park Avenue Thrift has given $235,000 back to the community.

“We were thinking about what we could do to raise another quarter of a million dollars. We thought we could make Enid a town of philanthropists,” Nightengale said. “On July 21 we went to the see the directors of the nonprofits. They were ecstatic, just excited.”

When Nightengale and her partner at Park Avenue Thrift, David Hume, were thinking of a face to represent the philanthropy effort, they immediately thought of Austin.

“Maxine was the best choice. She is not our cheerleader; she is our spokesperson,” Nightengale said.

Austin is not only a philanthropist giving her money to the organizations, she also is a hands-on volunteer for Main Street Enid.

She has been a part of Main Street Enid since its inception. She is known to be out weeding, pruning and clipping with the organization.

“The nice people who think this a lovely town and pay their taxes and say ‘I’m from Enid,’ those are residents,” Austin said. “Citizens work to try to make it better. They aren’t doing it on wishful thinking. They are getting out there and working.”

Austin has been a member of the Enid community since 1918 when she moved to Enid with her parents.

“When I moved to Enid, I thought it was wonderful and I’ve never stopped thinking that,” said said.

Each organization to benefit from the fundraising effort will host a special event during the philanthropy challenge.

Gaslight Theatre is having a special showing of “Love Letters” at 8 p.m. Sept. 25. PEGASYS is having amateur night allowing people to be on television and get a tour of the station, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 30. Main Street Enid is hosting OctoberFest First Friday on Oct. 1 in downtown Enid. Leonardo’s is having a family night 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 14.

The philanthropy effort will wrap up with two events on Oct. 23. Enid Symphony Orchestra will host the Daddy Warbucks’ Club show, “Annie” at 10:30 a.m. and the USO Show “On the Road to Philanthropia” at 7:30 p.m. During the USO show, the community will celebrate Austin’s 100th birthday.

“Eric Benson has agreed to carry her birthday cake with 100 candles down the aisle at intermission,” Nightengale said. “We hope to give Maxine her birthday wish that Enid becomes a town of philanthropists.”

For information about Austin challenging Enid to become a city full of philanthropists, go to www.EnidGives.org.