ELKHART — An Elkhart organization that helps children achieve through after-school programs is in a lot better shape than just a month ago.
Five Star was awarded a $10,000 prize as one of the winners of the 2009 America’s Giving Challenge, a national online competition to raise money for charities.
The top 12 charities that received the most donations were awarded money prizes. Overall, Five Star raised $20,225 and encouraged 1,664 donations.
The competition went from Oct. 7 to Nov. 6, but Five Star didn’t get involved until Oct. 15 — which led the way for a come-from-behind effort. With 24 hours left in the event, the group had gathered just 902 votes, but rallied for an additional 760 in the final 24 hours to secure its 12th-place finish and $10,000.
Five Star is an after-school program that serves 1,000 students in 13 area schools. The outreach also owns a 263-acre wooded campus in Sturgis, complete with fishing ponds, hiking trails, horseback riding and camping cabins.Justin Maust, Five Star’s president, said the group’s success was a reflection on the community around it.
“This is what I think happened,” Maust said: “We’ve been hit with such terrible news in this region the past couple years, and I think Michiana stood up for our youth when it mattered. They came out and voted for the youth of Michiana. When things are down, people really step up.”
Maust said the $30,000 Five Star will receive from the prize money and the donations will go toward the group’s “operational budget.” Maust said Five Star used a combination of Facebook, other social medias and radio stations to get the word out, and also credited the dozens of volunteers that made it possible.
Overall, the online fundraiser — sponsored by PARADE Publications, The Case Foundation and Causes — inspired 105,000 donations and more than $2.1 million.
Five Star serves schools in four counties, including two South Bend Community School Corp. schools, a Mishawaka middle school and three middle schools in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp.
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