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Gift rockets CFCC fundraising forward

The goal of $7.5-million got a lot closer with the donation of $2-million from Ron and Phyllis Ewers of Marion County.

Central Florida Community College on Tuesday kicked off a campaign to raise $7.5-million to finance four major initiatives, including the construction of a conference center at the Lecanto campus.

At a gathering at CFCC's Webber Center in Ocala, college President Charles Dassance, along with Ocala Mayor and campaign chairman E.L. Foster, hosted about 100 guests who learned about the campaign goals. The funds raised will help pay for projects which are not normally a part of the state's basic funding priorities.

They also announced a largest ever cash gift to the college _ $2-million _ from Ron and Phyllis Ewers. They are founders of Class 1, the international wire harness and fire truck component manufacturing company. The Ewers are longtime Marion County residents.

Donations, including that gift and federal money, mean the campaign already has raised $4-million, Dassance said. "We've never had a major gift campaign before," said Joan Stearns, campaign director. "We've raised money for scholarships very effectively . . . but we've never raised money for a capital campaign."

And since dollars raised through donations may be matchable on a state level, every bit raised "gives more bang for the buck," she said. "That means more state money coming back for the community."

The Citrus conference center project, which is slated for the front portion of the CFCC campus, facing County Road 491, will provide learning and seminar space as well as room to expand cultural and corporate partnership opportunities in Citrus County.

Other projects include the Central Florida Century Center, a building fronting on State Road 200 at the Ocala campus. It will include facilities for corporate training, conference and meeting facilities with state-of-the-art technology and a cultural hub for various college and community organizations.

The Ewers' gift will go toward that project.

A wellness center also is planned for the Ocala campus. The facility will promote a healthy and active lifestyle and provide continuing education and lifelong learning focused on health and well-being.

The final project is to provide endowment funds for student scholarships and other purposes.

Stearns said she has worked with a core group of fundraisers in Citrus and that community leaders have been involved in the development of the Citrus proposal, right down to picking building sites.

She said the work bodes well for the college's standing in the community.

"We're going to be the center of Citrus County at CFCC," Stearns said. "We're very excited."