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Is your favorite conservation group blue about finances? Is your gun club suffering from lack of funds?

Two upcoming events offer differing, but solid, ideas for fund raising that could help.

On Sept. 24, the Alexander Volunteer Fire Deparment hopes to take in around $30,000, most of it from a 300-ticket raffle that offers sportsmen's "dream trips" as prizes. And the Buffalo Audubon Society, which has raised $600,000 through a two-year grind by a bunch of deeply committed volunteers, will break ground Sept. 25 for the new nature center at Beaver Meadow.

Both schemes are far from the usual shotgun or fly-rod raffle, and they beat the wildlife print auction all hollow.

Alexander's volunteer fire deparment serves a sparsely populated farming area.

"If you don't have the tax base, you just have to keep hustling for funds," said Lance Scharlau. "We raffled new cars for years until Stafford showed us how to really do it -- they raffle off a classic Corvette, so we raffle a classic 1955-57 T-Bird every year.

"The trick to raffles is to offer the average guy something he could never afford for himself."

So, after visiting the Harrisburg, Pa., show a few years back, he decided to try hunting and fishing trips. Harrisburg is the East's largest sportsman show and one where many lodges and outfitters find customers.

It took Scharlau more than a year to cull the possibilities, checking business and client references to narrow the list down to what he thinks are all top-rate outfitters. Then the department bought two-person packages.

First prize is a choice of a five-day Alaskan fishing trip for two, a five-day Wyoming whitetail, mule deer, antelope or bear hunt for two, or a five-day bow hunt in Illinois for whitetails.

The second prize winner can choose a three-day Virginia deer hunt for two or three days of golf, duck, goose or deer hunting in Tennessee. All include air fare, food, lodging licenses, guides, boats, etc. The Alaskan trip adds taxidermy for one deer per hunter or vacuum sealing fish for the trip home; the Virginia deer hunt includes taxidermy but does not include air fare.

Third, fourth and fifth prizes are cash. Raffle tickets cost $80 each and admit two to the seminar program Friday night, although winners need not be present.

"Actually, even if the trip tickets are sold out we'll have a pretty good program, with seminars from Quaker Boy and Kishel Game Lures and the Big Buck Club will be there to score racks," Scharlau said. "We'll have free food and beer, all for $10, and it starts at 6:30 p.m." For information call Lance or Laura Scharlau at 591-3129.

Audubon, which will break ground at Beaver Meadow during the annual bird seed sale the following day, does not really depend on "events."

"If you have a major project, like tripling the size of Beaver Meadow's indoor facilities, you cannot rely on special events," said Bill McKeever, Buffalo Audubon's new executive director. "Everyone in the membership or the constituency has to be asked, one-on-one, for a contribution."

McKeever, a proven development director, said the society had already accomplished that before he came aboard six months ago through the "efforts of an amazing group of volunteers.

"They raised $600,000 in cash and pledges which is enough to triple the size of the building, but not enough to equip it."

The groundbreaking at 1 p.m. "should kick-start that last push," McKeever added. There will be nature walks and a $5 chicken barbecue following the ceremonies.

The annual seed sale is not to be denigrated, however. For years it has been a major source of operating funds for the nature center in North Java (as well as a source of carefully selected and well-priced winter feeding supplies). But if you need major money, McKeever says an organization simply has to ask its "core constituency" to come through.

"Like every group we have a wide range of demographics," he said. "And so far most of them have helped. We have people who can afford to give $10 and others who can afford $5,000. Of course, local foundations are helping, as well. They see success, and that breeds success."

For details on the seed sale or to reserve a place at the barbecue after the groundbreaking, call Beaver Meadow at 457-3228.

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