As evening approached on Saturday, July 30, new Lexington County Friends of NRA Chairman Dave Anatra was busying preparing for his committee’s banquet with his fellow volunteers. Little did he know that he was in for an amazing surprise as the event unfolded.
Dave first got involved with Friends of NRA in northern Ohio. With a passion for supporting charitable organizations—and a history of volunteering for organizations from Lion’s Club to Kiwanis Club—he quickly agreed to help out with a Friends of NRA banquet when invited.
“I consider Friends of NRA the same as those other organizations, except it has the focus to combine my passions—teaching, training and educating people about firearms and the chance to help fund that by raising money through different events,” says Dave. “When I worked the first banquet I got to see all of these people who feel the same and I was welcomed like I was a longtime veteran. And it was awesome.”
Dave was hooked. He began volunteering at different events and linked up with the Northeast Ohio Friends of NRA committee. More banquets. More fundraisers. And through all of this he was able to observe the spark at the heart of the program’s mission and success.
“I got to see the passion of different committees when I went to their events,” Dave says. “One thing that they all had in common was that everyone was there to have a good time but had no bones about why we were there—fundraising.”
When Dave and his wife moved to South Carolina in December 2015, he remained committed to supporting fundraising for the shooting sports and quickly sought out NRA Field Rep Freeman Coleman, who was also new to South Carolina Friends of NRA.
“I became a pest,” he chuckles. “I was ready to get with a committee and help out! We talked many times over the phone, and finally he told me about the committee in Lexington.”
The two of them met up with the treasurer and some other volunteers to start discussing 2016 plans, but the committee was in need of a leader. When Freeman asked who wanted to be the chairman, the room went quiet. But Dave isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. “I’ll take it,” he decided. “I’ll dive in head first and then learn how to swim.” "Friends of NRA aims to be a family function that is open to all ages and all walks of life." When the committee started recruiting more members and working to plan a banquet, Dave reached out to Freeman again. This time it was for a special request. “I told him I didn’t want to lose sight of what I’m here to do and why,” Dave says. “I asked him to send me a copy of the signed event charter so I could hang it on my wall and keep me focused.”
After months of planning and the collection of an entire room full of donations, the day of the event arrived. “I was more nervous than a kid on his first prom date,” Dave confesses. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had people in my committee who I didn’t know and they didn’t know me except for our meetings, so I’m sure they had high expectations.”
As people began funneling in the door, Dave kept busy working games. In all the excitement, he didn’t notice a few familiar faces make their way into the crowd—four members of his old Ohio committee. “I look up and here are four people who drove 10 1/2 hours just to come to my banquet because they knew I was the chairman,” he says. “There was Todd, Bob, Suzanne and Darrel, all with big smiles on their faces. And Freeman had known about this for months!”
The visitors did more than just boost Dave’s spirit and participate as attendees at the banquet, they also pitched in as volunteers. “Come time for the live auction, they jumped up and helped out as runners in the live auction,” Dave recalls. “Not only did they drive here and spend money at the banquet, but they physically helped out. It was their way of saying thank you.”
All the excitement, hard work, surprises and dedication paid off. The Lexington County event tripled its fundraising from 2015 to 2016, and the committee isn’t stopping there. “None of us have lost interest,” Dave affirms. “We are more energized because we’ve got a good group of people. And when the Ohio volunteers came down to the banquet, right then and there, it sunk in for me that these guys are like family; we’ll do whatever we can to help each other. Friends of NRA aims to be a family function that is open to all ages and all walks of life. That experience just reinvigorated me and made me realize again just what we are—a family. Time and distance doesn’t separate us once you make that connection. Our program has no borders.”
Want to get involved with Friends of NRA? Visit friendsofnra.org for more information and to find your local chapter!