Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - Updated: 10:29 AM
Efforts to raise at least $40,000 by May to build a greenhouse in memory of a local man is nearing the project's goal, and fundraisers are ramping up efforts.
Friends and family of Tony Ellis are hoping to recognize how much he meant to the community with a greenhouse at Lyon County High School. Organizers Rae Wagoner and Becky Kinder work with Ellis' wife Debbie at the Kentucky Soybean Association office in Princeton. Last winter, the women set a goal of raising $40,000 to be able to hold a groundbreaking before Ellis' twin son and daughter Avery and Allison graduate later this month.
With May on the horizon, they're close to their goal, and an event that's been rescheduled throughout April might tip them over.
"We are extremely close," Kinder said. "This is something great that the community can all get behind. The response has been great, from individuals and businesses and the agriculture industry.
"We are excited to say that Green the Grandstands has been rescheduled for May 9. T-shirts are still available for anyone who would like to purchase one. We would love to have everyone out."
The event will be held at the Lee S. Jones Park as the Lyons baseball team hosts Trigg County. Proceeds from commemorative shirts will go toward the project. Green the Grandstands was originally planned for earlier in the season, but inclement weather and a series of road games forced it to be rescheduled.
Many throughout the community got to know the Ellis family through their involvement in local sports, including baseball and softball at Lyon County High School. Organizers hope the greenhouse will keep alive Tony's contribution to the community after Allison and Avery's graduation in May. Tony and Debbie's oldest daughter Anna graduated in 2013. Anna served as manager for the basketball team.
Superintendent Russ Tilford updated the Lyon County Board of Education on the project at their last meeting. Tilford said "generous contributions" had already been received, and more were anticipated.
"The original goal was $40,000; I'm confident we will beat that," Tilford said. "I'm also confident we will receive some funding through an ag development board grant that we are applying for."
Tilford encouraged board members to consider their visions of the groundbreaking in coming weeks. Plans for the building will depend on the final amount raised.
Efforts got off to a quick start following a $10,000 donation by Lyon County's Kentucky Farm Bureau office. A list of donors provided by the board of education includes what appears to be 33 individual donors, along with 24 business donations, totaling $33,128. Many of the individual donations include coworkers from Ellis' job as a project coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In an interview earlier this year, Wagoner said organizers hope to raise enough funds to build a permanent glass and metal building usable by local agriculture students. Wagoner said size and design plans depend on how much money is raised, but they hope to build something more durable than a plastic hoop house.
The building will allow students to learn about planting and cultivating outside of a textbook.
It could eventually allow them to generate funds through plant sales. Wagoner said she hopes plant sales could become self-sufficient and a benefit to local FFA members.