The Power of Florence was on full display on Saturday, July 15. This brainchild of 17-year-old Kaylee Graham has grown from a small group of caring youngsters trying to help their neighbors to a citywide service event that engages hundreds in projects designed to improve the quality of life for all in Florence.
“It was an amazing day,” Shannon Graham, Kaylee’s mother, said. “The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. At least 2,000 individuals were out working together to raise money for nonprofits and other causes, sharing and learning about nonprofits, donating items to help with needs in our community and working together to make a difference for our community.”
The seventh installment of the popular community oriented event began at 7 a.m. Saturday morning with a free pancake breakfast at the United Methodist Church.
Volunteers working on service projects later in the day and other hungry community members started out the morning with a full plate of pancakes, eggs and sausages, all washed down with strong coffee and orange juice.
Many morning diners then took part in the “Power Walk,” which signaled the official start of the day’s festivities.
Florence Mayor Joe Henry and Kaylee welcomed the enthusiastic crowd at the steps of the Florence Christian Church and thanked those in attendance for the ongoing support that the Power of Florence receives from residents.
The duo then popped paper confetti corks to signal the start of the walk.
Shannon was understandably pleased with this year’s turnout.
“This was, by far, the best Power of Florence yet, and definitely had the highest attendance. We started the morning with 75 people at the Power Walk. There were also service projects around Florence and tons of volunteers,” she said.
Power of Florence featured a record total of 46 events, run by 238 people with a total of 1,132 volunteer hours donated, and some totals are still being calculated by organizers.
Henry echoed the sentiments expressed by Shannon and commented on the overall impact the project has had on the city.
“The Power of Florence event started seven years ago with the idea of one young woman, Kaylee. Her idea was that we could do great things in our community if each one of us gave up one day to make a difference in our community,” Henry said. “From this simple idea evolved the awesome event that happened on Saturday with 46 improvement projects being completed and numerous other fundraising events held for many organizations in the community.”
Over the years, Power of Florence has touched many residents and spurred them to participate in many different ways.
“More than 304 pounds of food was collected for the Oregon Coast Humane Society. Florence Food Share’s Beavers vs. Ducks Food Collecting Contest brought in 3320 pounds of food. The Ducks were the clear winners after a generous $1,000 donation,” Shannon said.
She also reported that 141 books were donated to Florence Little Libraries and the PeaceHealth’s Can and Bottle Drive for Food Backpacks for Kids filled an ambulance two times, with 4,343 donated cans and bottles.
Additionally, 12 bags of clothing were collected for Siuslaw Outreach Services. The Lion’s Club stated that 35 people were screened through vision, glaucoma, blood sugar, and blood pressure screening stations.
The list of service projects positively impacted by the Power of Florence this year included trimming foliage and a more extensive cleanup of Gallagher Park, home of the Welcome to Florence sign; power washing of the Siuslaw Public Library and the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce buildings; pulling non-native Scotch broom from the dunes; and cleaning and weeding Veteran’s Memorial Park on Bay Street.
Following tradition, the use of parking lot of Grocery Outlet was donated by businessman Woody Woodbury again this year for the use of local nonprofits. The busy location was utilized by 22 organizations to set up tables, grill burgers and hotdogs, share information, work towards enlisting volunteers and raise donations and money.
This generosity did not go unnoticed by the Grahams. Parents Todd and Shannon and kids Taylor and Kaylee made an effort to visit many events throughout the busy day.
“Woody says this was the best attended year yet at the Party at the Parking Lot,” Shannon said. “He also believes between 1,800 and 2,000 people attended the events there.”
Across the street, Florence Regency held a carnival to raise money Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW), where the primary draw was the chance to “dunk” Henry, KCST Coast Radio’s Wayne Sharpe, Siuslaw News Editor Ned Hickson, Queen Rhododendra Claire Waggoner and doctors and staff at Regency.
2017 is Kaylee’s final year as Power of Florence coordinator. The great weather, unprecedented participation and abundance of goodwill that was apparent at all of the venues this year made for a bittersweet but anticipated transition for the Graham family.
“We are blessed with all of the support shown to Kaylee for the past seven years and are looking forward to Ella and Ava Glowacki taking charge and the incredible things they will do, along with support from our community. The Power of Florence could not be in better hands,” Shannon said.
2017 co-coordinator Ava Glowacki and her family will lead the next Power of Florence.
For additional updates, visit PowerOfFlorence.org.
For more photos and a video of the day’s events, visit www.TheSiuslawNews.com.