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Jacksonville church 'Monopolizes' summer camp fundraising

When Beth Sheets needed money for children's programs at her church in Jacksonville, she turned to an unusual source for help: a board game.

Sheets, head of the children's department at Calvary Church, has worked since January to create a Monopoly-style game called Jacksonville-opoly to raise funds for the church. After researching the Pride Distributors, Inc. program "Your Town-opoly" that gives organizations the tools to create a board game to raise money, Sheets contacted the company.

"We've done car washes, sold candy bars, we've done this and that," Sheets said.

But in recent years, the church has struggled to raise enough money to help about 60 children go to summer camps and attend activities throughout the year. She said it costs about $200 for each child to go to a summer camp.

After months of selling the available 40 spots on the game board to local businesses and organizations — mostly in downtown Jacksonville — Sheets said the game should be available by the weekend. Scheffel's Toys, 5th Street Flowers, The Candy Shoppe and Buggy Wash are among the dozens of businesses that will sell the game for $25.

Spots on the game board sold to businesses for anywhere from $250 to $400, depending on how much they're worth in the game, Sheets said. About 40 other organizations paid $50 for an advertisement on the game board, helping the church raise about $6,000. The revenue the church collected from selling the spots paid for manufacturing 500 board games.

The game is played just like Monopoly, Sheets said. But instead of landing on Boardwalk, Jacksonville-opoly players will land on clothing store La Boheme. The Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon purchased Park Place.

"One of the biggest reasons we did this is because it's so cool," Sheets said.

Rather than paying a tax to the tax collector, players will pay Sherwin-Williams for a home remodel. In play money, of course.

The Jacksonville Police Department also is featured as the "Go to Jail" spot. But instead of going to jail, the spot was changed to "Go to Court" after a local attorney bought the jail spot, Sheets said.

Jay Abramson, president of Pride Distributors, Inc., said the Michigan corporation has an agreement with Parker Brothers, the makers of Monopoly, which allows them to produce games nearly identical to Monopoly. He said the program started in 1984.

Only organizations that have a mission of helping people can qualify to sell a board game, Abramson said.

"I look at this as a feel-good business," Abramson said. "We deal with nobody but activists."

Frances Chaney, a board member of the church, said trying to raise $6,000 in typical fundraisers would have been impossible. She said the funds benefit the community as well as the church. Businesses earn part of the proceeds from the sale of the games.

"It's a win-win situation," she said. "Plus, it's just been so much fun. Everyone is so excited."

Reach University of Oregon reporting intern Josephine Woolington at 541-776-4368.

Jacksonville’s Calvary Church is raising money for summer camps by creating Jacksonville-opoly, a Monopoly-like board game featuring Jacksonville businesses. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell