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Day for Southern sets new mark

Annual fundraiser collects $1,417,799 for GSU

Day for Southern sets new mark

Day for Southern sets new mark

Georgia Southern President Brooks Kee...

More than 125 volunteers canvassed the Statesboro community Tuesday to make an annual Georgia Southern University fundraiser the most successful the school has ever conducted.
When every dollar had been counted, university officials announced the 39th “A Day for Southern” campaign, an annual tradition to collect donations from local businesses, raised $1,417,799, breaking a previous high-water mark set last year.
The funds, collected in a single day by volunteers visiting Statesboro and Bulloch County establishments, are used to help offset costs not covered by state education funds.
“This is without a doubt one of the most unique university fundraising campaigns in the country,” Keel said. “We are so thankful to all of those that have and continue to support Georgia Southern University.  This is a volunteer-driven effort and it says a lot about how much this community cares about the direction and future of ‘their’ university. They believe in Georgia Southern and we are incredibly grateful.”
This year’s total exceeds last year’s record $1,403,062 tally by more than $14,700.
A Day for Southern is a joint effort between the Georgia Southern University Foundation and the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation.
Funds collected through the campaign support scholarships, faculty development, athletics and cultural programs such as the Georgia Southern Museum, the Center for Wildlife Education, the Garden of the Coastal Plain, the Performing Arts Center and Symphony Georgia Southern, Keel said.
Also, Georgia Southern, like other institutions, has faced state budget cuts, making support from donors more significant than ever.
The focus for this year’s A Day for Southern, and the pitch used when talking to area business leaders, was: “Together We’re Better — Campus and Community.”
School administration, staff and volunteers stressed the mutually beneficial relationship shared between Georgia Southern University and Statesboro.
“Georgia Southern and Statesboro are neighbors on a two-way street. There is no way we would be where we are without the community, and we’d like to think the community is a better place because of what we bring to the table,” Keel said. “I have quickly come to realize that you cannot have an Eagle Nation without first starting with an Eagle community. I am just so grateful for this community that has allowed us to become what we are today.”
In a campaign kickoff breakfast hosted at the university’s Performing Arts Center, the 2012 A Day for Southern community chairman, Darron Burnette, provided an example of Georgia Southern’s impact on the area. 
“When you consider surrounding communities, the stability of this university’s contributions cannot be understated. During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the economic impact was $512 million, with nearly 7,000 jobs in Bulloch County,” Burnette said. “Student spending accounted for more than $266 million.”
So “when Georgia Southern succeeds, Statesboro thrives,” he said.
Both Keel and Burnette joined the army of volunteers Tuesday, making rounds throughout the morning to collect donations.
The pair’s first stop: L.A. Waters Furniture and Mattress Center on Northside Drive.
“We have been Georgia Southern supporters for quite some time. I can’t remember a year in which we haven’t contributed,” said Anthony Waters, a Georgia Southern graduate and operator of the establishment. “Truthfully, Georgia Southern is a catalyst that makes Statesboro what it is. I remember when I was a kid, Statesboro, Claxton, Sylvania, Swainsboro and all these other towns were pretty equal. Because of the synergy between Georgia Southern and Statesboro, Statesboro has certainly made its mark and become quite different than those cities.
“The college brings industry, people and other things to Statesboro that normally wouldn’t be in a small, south Georgia town,” he said. 
Perhaps not surprisingly, another year of contributions from Waters was not a hard sell for the Georgia Southern president.
“I’m delighted to have the chance to go out and talk to the community. We have a great thing to sell,” Keel said. “We have a great university, and I think everyone understands and appreciates what the university brings to the community.”

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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