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Helms Center plans to expand

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By Todd Cohen

WINGATE, N.C. — After a year of taking stock of its programs, the Jesse Helms Center Foundation in Wingate will kick off a three-year celebration of its 20th anniversary this year with ambitious plans to expand nationally, abroad and in North Carolina.

To finance expansion, including a leadership program for students, workshops for teachers, foreign policy training for young professionals and lecture series, the foundation this year plans to begin the quiet phase of a campaign to nearly triple or quadruple its endowment to $20 million.

“We’d like to be one of the top free-enterprise educators in the United States,” says John R. Dodd, the foundation’s president.

Formed in 1988, the Helms Center is the official repository of the Congressional papers of former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, who served from 1973 to 2003.

The center includes Helms’ personal papers, dating to his reporting in the 1930s for what is now the Monroe Enquirer-Journal.

Altogether, the collection includes an estimated two million to four million items, most of which eventually will be scanned and accessible in digital format, Dodd says.

Housed in a 23,000-square-foot conference center across the street from the Wingate campus that was funded through a $5 million capital campaign, the Helms Center serves 10,000 to 15,000 people a year and operates with a $1 million annual budget and a seven-person staff.

It has $5.5 million endowment, that was seeded through an even earlier $2 million campaign and has grown through contributions and some planned gifts.

Including a contained area that houses Helms’ papers, the conference center also features exhibits on his career, a replica of his Senate office and the Charles A. Cannon Free Enterprise Hall of Fame.

The Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge, a week-long program the center offers mainly in the summer, served 500 students in 2006, mainly in North Carolina but also in Mexico.

The center plans to expand the program by developing franchises throughout the U.S. and abroad, mainly with universities but also with other groups that work with students, and to focus more on disadvantaged students, Dodd says.

The center also wants to expand, initially throughout North Carolina, the teacher workshops it offers in partnership with school systems and colleges.

And it plans to expand its speakers program and its Helms Foreign Policy School in Washington, D.C., a program that focuses on Helms’ foreign policy principles and on communication skills.

With consulting on its strategic goals from Beth Briggs of Creative Philanthropy in Raleigh, and on fundraising from Galileo Planning in Chapel Hill, foundation expects this year to begin the quiet phase of a campaign that likely will take three to five years.

Focusing mainly on planned giving, or gifts that are deferred or include assets other than cash such as securities or real estate, the campaign likely will have a goal of $10 million to $15 million.

The center this year also is holding a series of fundraising events, including a March 28 lecture at Wingate and a dinner at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, both featuring Texas financier T. Boone Pickens.

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