Log cabin will be raffled off on July 4th
SHINGLEHOUSE, PA - Just below the New York- Pennsylvania state line, in the Appalachian foothills of Potter County, is the tiny town of Shinglehouse and Oswayo Valley High School, where the average graduating class numbers about 40 students.
But despite its diminutive size it has a giant reputation for track and field ....a tradition spanning generations as evident by the numerous banners extolling state and regional championships which hang in the high school gym.
Hardly befitting that legacy, though, is the track itself ...these days surrounded by a rusted fence, with weeds growing through it's cinder surface.
"Schools don't even want to come and run on this track because it's in such bad shape," said Bruce Kemp, a high school science teacher and coach, who also recently served as the school district's Athletic Director.
"They say, 'listen, if we're gonna have a meet why don't you come to us... because we don't want our kids running on that track.' They call it the kitty litter track," Kemp said.
"Some kids had made it to the state championship in track and said, 'hey why can't we have a track like everybody else'?", Kemp explained to WGRZ-TV.
However, a modern track with a synthetic surface like most surrounding schools have costs upwards of $300,000 and the economic realities faced by the school district and the state made paying for such an improvement prohibitive.
"It's a tough economic time to be adding to infrastructure. So we decided we'd have to raise the money ourselves," Kemp recalled, in explaining how the community group Together Rebuilding Alumni Community and Kids (TRACK) was formed.
But their latest fundraising effort is something even Kemp, the president of TRACK, had a hard time getting a handle on when first proposed.
"Everyone said its absolutely ludicrous idea,... but it was a unanimous vote to go for it."
They are raffling off a two bedroom, 1100 square ft. log cabin home, which was built by the townsfolk and the students, alongside area contractors who donated their labor using materials supplied by dozens of merchants who provided them either free or at cost.
The tickets are selling for $50, and the winner of the July 4th drawing will get the house, the half acre lot which it sits on, and a year's worth of hunting rights on a nearby 3,400 acre reserve.
"And we have awesome deer here!" exclaimed Mike Filer, another board member for TRACK and who Kemp credits as being the "idea man".
"The cabin is suitable as either a seasonal or permanent home. It's brand new and all built to code with quality materials," Filer remarked while checking out the progress of the work.
Filer, a native of Niagara County, NY is employed by a local utility company, and has become known throughout the community for having helped a variety of groups raise thousands of dollars.
A jovial man, stout of build with a ham hand for the shaking, most credit Filer not only for coming up with the idea to raffle off the cabin but for marshalling the legion of volunteer forces to build it.
"We've done the chicken barbecues, we've done 250 clubs, we've done the 5k races...It's not enough. And maybe I'm crazy, but you know what? It's worth a try! You can't sit back and wait for the money to come. It's not not going to come. So you go after it . You do something and stand up for yourselves!"
There's just one problem.
"Right now we're in the red," conceded Filer, explaining that despite all the generosity and sweat equity, TRACK had to spend $71,000 dollars on the project.... and has only sold $50,000 in tickets.
The fact is there's only so many people around the sparsely populated region to buy tickets,...and there are restrictions associated with their state issued game of chance permit, which preclude them from buying advertising, or even selling tickets through credit cards on line.
However, tickets may be purchased by checks and can be sent through the mail.
Click here to find out how to purchase tickets.
"We need to sell another 500 tickets to get into the black and start raising money...we need help," Filer said.
He was also quick to note there is nothing in the rules that says you have to be a Pennsylvanian to win.
"Somebody from Buffalo, NY could win it," said Filer.
Though they may be racing the clock in terms of ticket sales, the folks in Shinglehouse, as evident by their storied history in track and field, do know more than a little bit about winning races.
"There may be some nay-sayers and but we're working our hearts out to make 'em wrong," said Kemp.
"This is still that small town America, where you ask people to do something and they show up and they help out," he said..before his voice trailed off as it cracked with emotion.
"If you have a goal and you wanna reach it, you gotta put something toward that goal every day. And that's what we do here," Filer said.
That's what they do.
In a tight knit community, where, when it's government said it "couldn't",....the people said "then we will".
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso.
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