By Danielle Sturgis | November 15 2009 11:48

Thanks to Nicole McMahon for sharing the following piece, which was written by Amber Niblock-Shorter and appears in the current issue of Traditions magazine:

Against All Odds: Allen Parish

Small, rural, low number of NRA members, and a weak local economy: sounds like a potential site for a successful Friends of NRA committee, right? While Allen Parish in Louisiana can be described as any of the previously mentioned descriptors when it comes to building a Friends of NRA committee, there is something to be said for persevering against the odds.

In late 2008, Kenny Blackwell contacted Senior Field Representative Dick Kingsafer about starting a Friends of NRA committee in Allen Parish, an area located in central Louisiana forest and nursery country with a population of about 26,000 and a total of only 200 NRA members. Blackwell had volunteered on a Friends of NRA committee in Arkansas before moving to Louisiana and sought to start a committee in Oakdale, the largest community within Allen Parish that contains only about 8,200 people.

“I believe very strongly in the Second Amendment and what the NRA is doing,” said Blackwell. “When I moved to Allen Parish nothing was going on and the people weren’t traveling to the surrounding areas to attend banquets. I just saw a need to have a banquet to locally support the NRA.”

Kingsafer gladly agreed to hold an organizational meeting, but needed Blackwell to rally some potential committee members to attend. As a preacher in the community, Blackwell’s network of people cast a wide net over the Parish and he was able to easily find people willing to help. “We wanted to not only support the Second Amendment, but the kids in our community as well,” said Blackwell. “We want to build a facility so that we can provide an atmosphere for kids to learn how to handle a firearm with respect and to teach them how to shoot.” And money raised at a Friends of NRA banquet helps communities reach objectives just like theirs. Needless to say, a committee charter was signed by meeting’s end and the first Allen Parish Friends of NRA banquet was set for July 9th in Oakdale.

As event plans ensued, Kingsafer relayed to the committee the average first-year event statistics, and advised that, if they wanted to beat the odds working against them, they needed to aim for 200 attendees with a minimum of 20 sponsorships to ensure a successful outcome. “The statistics,” said Kingsafer, “were not in their favor.”

Led by Blackwell, 20 hearty Allen Parish volunteers rose to the challenge and made beating the odds look easy. Working every avenue, the committee spread the word about the coming banquet through internet, television, radio, newspaper spots, and most effectively, talking to people face-to-face. Come banquet day, the committee had sold 230 tickets and 19 sponsorship tables. The committee was also pleasantly surprised when 40 some people wanting tickets to the banquet walked through the door the night of the event.

“It was something we didn’t expect,” Blackwell said. “But the facility added more tables, the caterer was able to work it out, and we had many self-sacrificing committee members who didn’t eat to make sure there was enough food to go around.”

Food seemed like the least of their problems though when mid-banquet, the air-conditioning inside the banquet hall failed; with a temperature of near 100° outside, the temperature inside hovered at a stifling 80° all evening. Still, attendees liked what they saw and chose to endure the heat to enjoy what the banquet had to offer. “There was lots of excitement in the room,” said Kingsafer. “Everyone was having a good time.” High aspirations, like raising money for the shooting sports, proved to be good motivation for the Allen Parish committee.

When the summer heat subsided for the day, the Allen Parish Friends of NRA had a gross revenue of about $28k with a 46% net-to-gross. Games sold out, the entire auction had exceeded $10k, and the 2009 Gun of the Year sold for $4,400. By any measure, whether it be a first-year event or a long-standing banquet, the Allen Parish Friends of NRA banquet can be called a success.

“That’s what can be expected time after time,” said Kingsafer, “when you tap into the passion and dedication of volunteers in the NRA family.”

Next year, Allen Parish Friends of NRA plans to bring that same enthusiasm to the table, hopefully this time in a larger facility with working air-conditioning.

Attend an upcoming Friends of NRA banquet in Louisiana! Contact NRA Field Representative Dick Kingsafer at (601) 794-0068 or via email at dkingsafer@nrahq.org for more information.

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