The nonprofit agency serving the largest population segment of Bartholomew County has launched its annual major donor campaign with a goal of at least $100,000 by Sept. 10.

Mill Race Center of Columbus serves primarily people 50 and older with a nearly $1.1 million budget that funds health and intellectual activities, social outings and many other programs. More than 75 of those programs are offered for free.

Paula Herlitz, the center’s resource development coordinator, recently helped kick off the drive with a dinner at the newly opened Upland Columbus Pump House, which had been used as the county’s senior citizens center until February 2011. About 85 people attended the event.

“It wasn’t really asking them (for money),” Herlitz said. “It really served as a thank you (for past support).”

However, the asking is beginning now. About five in-home gatherings of about 20 to 25 people are planned, during which leaders will discuss Mill Race’s elaborate programming and other attractions such as its state-of-the-art fitness center with on-site exercise specialists from Columbus Regional Health.

This fund drive also encompasses promotion and support for the Pitman Institute for Aging Well, launched in May 2015 to focus partly on cutting-edge research and learning opportunities as a think tank. Last year’s fundraising effort for the center and the institute generated $300,000, Herlitz said.

About 40 percent of the center’s budget comes from donations, according to its leaders.

“The primary focus of this is to increase the number of our major donors,” Herlitz said. “But, at the same time, we don’t want to discourage the $5 or the $25 donor.”

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.