LYNDONVILLE — A fundraising challenge to generate donations for the Meals on Wheels programs in both Lyndonville — at the Darling Inn meal site — and through the St. Johnsbury House, has now topped $18,000, in just a few weeks’ time, said Mike Labounty, who is in a Team Lyndon vs. Team St. J challenge with his friend Donald Beer Jr.

The friends and co-workers last fall launched a huge social media challenge fundraiser for The Santa Fund, which both men had benefited from growing up, and they raised more than $14,000 and 500 donated toys for the nonprofit holiday program sponsored by The Caledonian-Record Publishing Company and the St. Johnsbury Fire Department.

From that success, which saw donations pour in as the men raised the bar on challenges to each other, which concluded with a demo derby race at the Caledonia County Fair in August, the men decided to invite other charitable causes in the Northeast Kingdom to enter a raffle for their next fundraising beneficiary.

They drew a name, and Meals on Wheels of St. Johnsbury won. The Meals on Wheels program in St. J, managed by Diane Coburn, suggested that the Meals on Wheels based at the Lyndon Area Meal Site at the Darling Inn also benefit, so the two sites are splitting what is raised.

Initially, when they kicked off the Meals on Wheels challenge fundraiser, Beer and Labounty, about three weeks ago, said they had hoped to generate $10,000.

Soon after, they said the loser — Beer is on one team, Labounty on the other — would get a tattoo if they hit $20,000 for the two area Meals on Wheels sites, which together send out more than 75,000 meals to home-bound individuals across the region five days a week.

That tattoo is seeming pretty definite. After a weekend car wash was held at Union Bank’s Portland Street branch in St. Johnsbury a total of $18,403.49 is now raised for the Meals on Wheels fundraising challenge.

A live social media pie auction is the next fundraiser planned and people have lined up to offer to make homemade pies; a live drawing will happen on social media on June 14, so watch Labounty and Beer’s posts, and any donation will get people into the pie raffle for a chance to win.

The meals cost the agencies $3 each, and many of those who receive help from the program cannot afford to pay, so donations and community support is critical, stressed Labounty earlier; he said Meals on Wheels in both towns is in need of more volunteers as well.

Events so far have included the car wash — last weekend the men dressed up in cereal box character costumes and pumped gas in Lyndonville; they have a Go Fund Me page (fees are taken from donations, so they are encouraging people donate directly to Union Bank branches in Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury); banks have donated, and more.

Tickets to a raffle are being sold through the meal sites and at Union Bank.

The winner of the raffle will get a tailgate BBQ at the Bear Ridge Speedway when Beer and Labounty and their teams face off in the final challenge of the fundraising dares.

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