Kingsburg is transforming a community
icon into a regional hub one donation at a time.
by Jolene Polyack
by Frankie Leal
In 2006 - Del Monte donated $25,000 to
the Friends. This turned out to be the most important
cornerstone of the renovation project’s
fundraising efforts. It was a signal that prompted
other large local businesses to donate similar
- After realizing that state and federal grant
money would not be obtained for several years,
the Friends looked to residents for contributions.
The challenge was getting residents to believe
the Depot would or even could be saved. People
didn’t want to give money to a project that
might not ever get off the ground.
2008 - A sense of urgency ensued because the roof
had deteriorated to a point where there was no
protection to the interior of the building. It
was determined that without a new roof, the Depot
would not be in adequate shape to renovate within
the next year or two at the most. The Friends
asked me to help with the project. I agreed and
asked Barbie Shakespeare to join the effort. We
then began talking to our contacts, asking, ‘If
you were us, how would you go about raising enough
money to renovate the Depot?” What transpired
was a culmination of many, many people’s
ideas and suggestions. Here is our journal:
2008 – One thing we noticed was that people
who had lived here all of their lives were the
ones who were most likely to not believe in the
project. They had watched the Depot deteriorate
over the past 24 years and felt it was hopeless.
Gang Nail Truss Company had donated the trusses
for the project. We asked if they would drive
a truck down the parade route of the Swedish Festival
with some of our trusses on it. We thought if
people saw we had the trusses, perhaps they would
begin to believe. We also opened the Depot for
tours that weekend. The community needed to understand
that only the roof was shot. The rest of the building
was in pretty good shape. We even rented a miniature
train to give people rides to and from the Depot.
Then, we launched the “Adopt a Truss”
campaign where, for $100, you could pay for a
truss to be installed, be invited to a Truss Signing
Party and have your name engraved on the Depot’s
2008 – Yard signs were placed strategically
around Kingsburg. The slogan “Get on Board”
was surrounded by a blue train. The signs were
planted over a two day period so that it would
look like an unveiling. We then mailed out a direct
mail piece explaining the project and asking for
donations. From this mailing alone, our P.O. Box
was filled with checks that stacked 8 inches high.
Fresno Bee ran a feature article in the Local
section about the Depot. This article landed the
Friends with a donation from Fresno Roofing that
would have cost the Friends $35,000 if paid for
in cash. Additionally, we received several hits
to our website and more donations.
Fall 2008 – Work began on the Depot. Most
of the Friends were overcome with joy. This was
the combined effort of hundreds of individuals
over 24 years. To actually have work begin was
very exciting. There would be absolutely no stopping
us now. Justin and Lindsey Roman, a 5th and 3rd
grader, helped us launch the “$$$ 4 The
Depot” campaign. Del Monte donated slotted
cans which were given to over 1,000 school children
who took the cans trick-or-treating with them.
When the cans were turned in and the money counted,
over $5,000 in change had been donated by the
2008 – We invited everyone who had donated
to the project thus far to a Truss Signing Party.
We were amazed at how many people came. We served
hot chocolate and the Valley Cats played music.
It was a fun event. After it was over, most of
the trusses had been signed with family member’s
names, drawings and well-wishes. It was a very
special event. Our Christmas promotion was, for
$100 the recipient would receive their name on
the Depot’s donor wall and a Fitz &
Floyd Christmas Ornament.
2009 – We had a Garden Tour fundraiser coordinated
by Barbie. We hosted the Chamber Mixer in May
and the Swedish Queen, Lexie Zanovitch, created
a presentation regarding the stories of the Depot.
She went to several schools, conducted Depot storytelling
and raised several thousand dollars for the Depot.
We had a donor offer to give $23,000 if we could
raise $13,000 in 90 days. We launched another
direct mailing and raised $10,500 through that
direct mail effort. A corporate donor provided
us with the remaining $2,500 with two weeks to
2009 – A licensed mason offered to rebuild
the fireplace, furnishing all of the materials
and labor at no charge. The second story is nearly
complete. Fresno Roofing is standing by in order
to install the new roof, which has already been
purchased. The Hi Life Restaurant offered a $3
donation to the Depot per entrée sold.
Other businesses have begun to consider similar
promotions as a way to raise money for the project.
Save Mart SHARES cards are used by residents and
bring in hundreds of dollars each month.
– Over 800 families and businesses have
contributed to the Depot since the Spring of 2008.
It is completely a community project now. Even
most of the naysayers are now counted amongst
the contributors. The single most successful element
of the campaign has been the donor wall. We have
a slab of marble taken from the Depot. It will
be mounted outside of the building and people
who have donated $100 or more will have their
names on it. Many people want their family names
on this donor wall so their future generations
will know they contributed. The larger the contribution,
the larger the family or business name will be
on the wall. We will close the donor wall opportunity
in the near future so we can begin the engraving
finished, the Depot will be a community gathering
place. The northern grand entrance will be a multi-modal
transportation hub, initially for buses. The middle
section will be a hands-on living museum where
visitors will see a slice of life from the late
19th century, including a working telegraph. The
far southern part of the Depot will be a 92 seat
theater where school children from across the
Valley will come to learn about trains, transportation,
the San Joaquin Valley, and local Indians. When
not in use for school field trips, the theater
will be available for tourists to learn about
all of the things there are to do in the region
including the Blossom and Fruit trails, Yosemite
and Kings Canyon National Parks, etc. On the southern
deck, parties, concerts and other community events
will take place.
in the middle of difficult economic times, the
Kingsburg community has pulled together to make
the renovation possible. People from all walks
of life have contributed in many ways. The Friends
thank every single person for doing their part.
you would like to contribute to the Depot project,
call Jolene at 559-284-2421. Or, visit the web