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Riverside Industries to kick off ‘Windows of Opportunity Campaign’ Tuesday

— Riverside Industries, Inc. is kicking off its first ever capital fundraising campaign Tuesday afternoon with an event at the One Cottage Street building where campaign organizers hope to replace 912 old windows.

The goal of the “Windows of Opportunity Campaign” is to raise $1.35 million to update THE cavernous building’s windows, many of which are as old as the 1859 former mill building. Riverside Industries, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities, owns and occupies part of the building and also rents out space to artists and craftspeople.

“This campaign is long overdue,” said Char Gentes, president of Riverside Industries. “We had an audit done that told us we were losing about $50,000 a year because of the windows.” Many of the single-paned windows are cracked and drafty with missing panes and rotten wood frames, she explained.

During the so-called “silent phase” of the campaign, organizers have raised $923,000, or about 68 percent of its goal, through donations from local residents, businesses and other sources. The largest single contribution is $300,000 from the city’s Community Preservation Act fund.

Tuesday’s event marks the start of the active campaign, when organizers will ask the community to ante up the remaining $212,000.

“We’re reaching out to everyone in the community who recognizes the importance of the building and the importance of Riverside Industries mission to help people lead fuller lives,” Gentes said Friday. She said the fundraising effort will include house parties, online appeals and mailers. “We’re hoping our circle of supporters will just get wider and wider,” she said.

Gentes said the fact that campaign organizers were able to raise 68 percent of their goal before even kicking off the campaign was a “wonderful surprise.”

“We’re really honored and humbled to have so much support from the community so quickly,” she said. She said she is confident that others will step up to raise the remaining in $212,000 in the next three months.

At the kick-off, the public can learn about the building’s history and hear speeches from Gentes and Easthampton Savings Bank President William S. Hogan, who chairs the campaign committee.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about the campaign and celebrate the fact that we’re moving to preserve this building that has so much history, and so many memories,” she said. She added that it is also a chance to honor an “enormous gift” from Easthampton Savings Bank. Hogan will present the nonprofit with a check for $100,000 at the event.

“We see the work of Riverside as vital in the community,” Hogan said Friday. “We wanted to make a statement about our long-standing relationship with and continued commitment to Riverside.” Hogan said the project is a home-run because it will help preserve the building, improve the space for Riverside clients and the artists who have studios there, and make it “greener” to save on heating costs. “And those dollars can then be used for Riverside’s valuable programs,” he said. The work to replace the windows will begin in mid-November. “We’re hoping people will see the crane and the work getting done and get excited about supporting the project,” Hogan said.

The event from 4 to 5 p.m. is open to the public.

For more information about the event or to donate to the cause, visit www.rsi.org.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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