Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Project Smile, the Early Days Continued

My third posting and it is still quite exciting. So to continue from yesterday- the summer of 2004 I decided to do a calendar to help raise funds. The first thing I needed was to get some police officers on board. I thought it would be simple, it wasn't. The first department I talked to, a small local department that we donated to, said that no one wanted to be involved because the officers didn't want to be recognized since they do undercover work. Now, I'm all for undercover work, but this town is tiny, everyone knows everyone, people leave doors unlocked, crime is minimal and there sure as heck isn't a whole lot of undercover working going down. So, I was struggling on that end. The advertising wasn't fairing much better. I was calling businesses right and left, but it was slow and tough. I had a one page info sheet about Project Smile that I typed up- now I look at it and grimace at its rudimentary design, but it was all I had. We had Uxbridge police on board to participate, so I went door to door in Uxbridge trying to sell advertising space to businesses. The very first store I went into, a small bookshop, I sold a $100 ad. I was over the moon! However, not only was that the first business in Uxbridge to be on board, it was the only one.

I wrote to our bank that we had our business account at, thinking they would be more apt to get on board. We asked for a $300 sponsorship, we received a check for $25. The process was disheartening, there were times I hung up the phone after getting turned down yet again and cried. However, I was still convinced it would be done. I called a local Milford lawyer that I had never met, but my father had known. He happily jumped on board and his $300 check was our very first donation. I cried in happiness as I deposited it. I remembered another businessman that I had met when I was 16 through my father. He had given me his business card and told me that if I ever needed anything, make sure I called. I held onto the card, keeping it for almost 9 years in my black travel bag. Through good times and the many not so good times that I went through, that card stayed in the little zippered pouch. I was nervous about calling, at first he was a little hesitant, business wasn't doing well for him and he had only met me once. But after I told him how I held onto his card for so long, he was happy to help out and got his brother on board to share the cost. I called as many people as I could who could help, I got other police departments who were going to be in the calendar to help sell advertising space and finally it was done. We got the local department to change their mind and they were in the calendar. It was the toughest thing I had done, but it was also exciting. I did all the photos myself, using a second hand 35 mm Canon camera that I bought for about $100. Photos were a blast, I met great officers and some terrific kids.

Along the way, I was introduced to another, much larger non profit based near Boston. I had received a call there from a lady who wanted to donate the stuffed animals they received to us. I met two of the people that ran the organization. The woman gave me some of the most helpful basic advice that I had received. She told me that we needed a logo and a good graphic designer who would also work on the calendar, brochure and letterhead. I knew I needed someone to do the calendar layout, but a logo? I hadn't even thought of it. She introduced me to Lisa, a mom, living in Quincy, who did part time graphic design work. She was awesome and our logo was soon born, along with a spiffy brochure, letterhead and kick-ass business cards (that I couldn't afford to get actually printed, so I kept using my old not so kick-ass ones).

Anyways, calendar is finally finished and goes to print. I followed the not-so-good advice of a local chamber of commerce leader who recommended I print 2,000 calendars instead of the original 1,000 that I was going to. He said it would be easy sales. Ah, not quite. 2,000 calendars packed in incredibly heavy boxes were ready on November 1. Now all I had to was sell them...

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