Margaret Shackell

You probably think a $50,000 birthday present is extravagant, even if all your friends go in on it together.  But that's exactly what Margaret Shackell wanted: 50 of something for her 50th birthday.  Shackell, who is an active participant in causes throughout Tompkins County, and especially in the Lansing schools decided she wanted 50 thousands of dollars for the 17 local causes that mean the most to her.

"I have had a lot of friends over the past couple of years who have been turning 50," Shackell says.  "They've done some 50 for 50s.  Marian Ferrer did 50 lunches with friends.  I thought that was awesome.  Deb Ryan did 50 bucket list things.  So I started thinking about what matters to me: fundraising for charities in the community.  I've given myself a year to do it.  I hope it will be sooner than that.  I hope people will jump in and want cake, or want to help out, or want to stop hearing me asking for money!"

Shackell set monetary goals for each cause, each goal reflecting her level of involvement with the organizations.  Saturday she held a party to celebrate reaching her first goal: $1,000 for the Lansing Community Library.

"We're going to put it toward our children's after-school Edge computer," said Lansing Librarian Susie Gutenberger.  "It's a self-contained computer that doesn't go on the Internet, but has many programs and tons of information for school projects, for homework, STEAM learning... just to support the curriculum at the school and to help kids in their research for their projects.  It's made by the same company that made our Children's Room computer that we've had amazing success with.  It's been great, so we're going to get the after-school version of that."

Shackell built a Web site specifically to support giving in honor of her birthday.  Her hope is to get 1,000 people to donate $50, but contributors may donate any amount they want to any of the seventeen charities she has designated.  Each organization may use the money for whatever they need.

50 for 50LCL Board Secretary Tania Lawrence, Margaret Shackell, LCL Board President Emily Franco, Librarian Susie Gutenberger.

"It is for whatever the organization wants to use it for.  I think LTAPA is going to use it for more instrument rentals, to try to get more students who can't afford it playing musical instruments in the band and orchestra," she says.  "Money donated to the Hangar Theatre will fund an associate sponsorship for two main stage shows this summer season."

Shackell turned 50 on March 26th, and as of the Thursday morning she had already raised a total $10,650.  The Hangar will be the biggest recipient if Shackell is successful in reaching the $10,000 she is targeting for the theater.  The next level is $5,00 each for Lansing CDC Tech Boosters, First Presbyterian Church in  Ithaca, the Lansing PTSO, LTAPA (Lansing music and theater boosters), and Lansing Sports Boosters.  As of this writing it appeared that Educate The Children, a local charity that seeks to improve the loves of women and children in Nepal, would be next to reach its $1,000 goal, with 80% of that donated.

Supporters devoured the cake Saturday almost as voraciously as they had contributed.

"It raises the awareness of the needs of the local organizations," Gutenberger said.  "People are used to going to the library and the hangar, and they might just not think about what all these institutions really need for all the extras.  They really need the support of the community and it brings up the profile of all the nonprofits, too, so it's a really great campaign."