2017 marked the 20th year of a very successful fundraiser that has been run by a single Rockford family that wanted to give back to the community that they loved.
Led by Denise Bradley and her parents, “Scarecrows” was originally created to provide affordable family fun that would not only bring families together but would also provide funding for local non-profit organizations. The event is now headed up by Denise and her son, Jason.
Initially, the recipient of the Bradleys’ generous donations was the Rockford Area Historical Society, a totally volunteer group that depended on donations and membership dues to pay for the operation of the Rockford Historical Museum, (now the Rockford Area Museum – RAM). The museum has always stored and preserved records and artifacts that tell the story of the Rockford area’s history. It has also always operated and provided services such as museum admission, group tours, and genealogy and other research completely without fees of any kind. These, as well as recently expanded services continue to be free to all guests and visitors.
Word of the scarecrows grew quickly. It is now a signature event of Rockford’s annual Harvest Festival with proceeds being shared between The Rockford Area Museum (RAM) and North Kent Connect (NKC) each receiving half of the proceeds from the annual event.
NKC is a Christian organization committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County by providing access to basic needs and promoting economic independence. Services include food for healthy living, employment assistance, life skills education, and much more. Their contributions to the community are invaluable.
In 2017, 836 scarecrows were built, with NKC and the RAM each receiving $4,200 from the event. People from all over southwest Michigan and even further already attend as the result of word of mouth. The goal of an army of volunteers who are already in place to help Denise and Jason, is to turn “Make It and Take It” Scarecrows into a destination event where families can gather in a beautiful riverside park setting, work together, laugh together, and build not only scarecrows, but also family memories that will last a lifetime.
The goal for 2018 is to build at least 2,000 scarecrows over two consecutive weekends in late September and early October. This is expected to be just the beginning, with future growth making this a true fall destination event for visitors from all over Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
Scarecrows will become the anchor event for many more visitors as years go by and the event becomes larger and provides an afternoon of affordable fun for more and more families.
There is no doubt that “Make It and Take It” Scarecrows is on the verge of reaching far beyond West Michigan to become a huge destination event.
How to help the “Make it and Take it” event
Volunteer Help needed:
• People with basic sewing skills to sew the 2,000 heads for the scarecrows. (work will begin in late May.)
• People to cut twine for scarecrow ankles, wrists, necks. A simple jig will be provided to simplify the process. (work can begin any time)
Area churches, schools, and service organizations are asked to let us know if any internal organizations could help with these two tasks.
• Other miscellaneous prep work throughout the summer. A list of names of people willing to help will be needed. These people will be contacted as needs arise.
• Approximately 150 volunteers for the four days of the event. (Sept. 29 and 30, Oct. 6 and 7)
• Volunteers will be asked to commit to as few as three or four hours. No advance training will be required.
• Teen and adult groups from local churches, schools and other organizations would be a tremendous help and would be making a significant contribution to our community.
Contact Al Pratt at 616-485-4144 with any questions or comments.