Three Rivers Chapter: Making a $3 Million Difference for Elk
By Hannah Ryan, Bugle Intern
In 2010, the Three Rivers Chapter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, became the first to raise a cumulative $3 million for elk country. The core group of diehards that fuels the chapter has a motto: Let’s make a difference, and let’s make it better.
Bill Klein, regional director for western Pennsylvania, says this chapter is made of highly-organized people who put in a lot of time for RMEF and hold themselves to the highest standard. “They’re focused on being the very best in the country,” he says.
More than 40 committee members belong to the chapter and put on the banquet. Ron Martz has been involved with RMEF since picking up a Bugle magazine on an Idaho hunt in 1984. He and five friends founded the Three Rivers Chapter in 1990. Since then, putting on banquets has become a family affair.
“I had 12 people from my own family help out at last year’s banquet,” Martz says. His wife Dorothy plans the banquet seating for 400-plus people. “If I put in hundreds of hours, she puts in thousands,” he says. “We always say if she ever quits we’ll probably dissolve! My kids organize all the paperwork for the silent auction, and my grandkids help sell raffle tickets. They’ve been doing it for 15 years.”
Committee member Woody Barefoot describes Ron and Dorothy Martz as cornerstones for the Three Rivers Chapter community. “Its quality, dedicated people like them who make our group what it is.”
Four hundred seventy people attended the 2010 banquet, a smaller turnout than usual, but Martz says it’s to be expected with a weak economy. The surprising thing, he says, is that despite fewer attendees in recent years, the banquets and raffles are bringing in more dollars than ever before. “When people see a line of beautiful firearms, they get excited,” Martz says.
The banquet’s impressive array of big-ticket raffle items—such as motorcycles, trucks, hunts, boats and guns, to name a few—and the rigorous efforts of committee members to procure these items year after year has helped bring the chapter to the $3 million mark. “The guys look at fundraising as a challenge,” says chapter chair Bill Drum.
Apart from banquets, the chapter holds raffles and attends sportsman’s expos. They rarely volunteer for field projects, Barefoot says, because “we know our limitations and don’t want to burn out. I think part of our success is that we know how to do a few things really well.”
It’s not always business, however. The chapter is planning a summer picnic at Barefoot’s cabin. They’ll barbeque, and the kids can fish and shoot BB guns. Barefoot says he’ll have his bass boat out to run kids up and down the river, and hopes to make it an annual event.
About 750 elk roam northwest Pennsylvania’s rolling hardwood forests. RMEF has spent $6 million to protect and enhance 12,000 acres of elk, bear, turkey, deer and other wildlife habitat there to date. The Three Rivers Chapter can be proud knowing they’ve played a big role—making a difference, and making it better.