Ducks Unlimited annual banquet set for March 25

By Chris Berendt -

Ducks Unlimited’s mission is to preserve wetlands and wildlife, and for decades now, a chapter based in Clinton has been a leader in the group’s efforts to fulfill its goal. The Clinton-Sampson chapter’s largest annual fundraising event is fast approaching and organizers have another big banquet on tap that they hope will continue those positive strides.

The event will be start at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center, located at 414 Warsaw Road. Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. Between 400 and 450 people attend the annual banquet on average to enjoy a good meal, bid on some items and make contributions to the organization and its worthy cause.

“This is our big one,” said Ducks Unlimited committee member Keith Jones of the fundraising event. “The banquet is where we make the majority of our money.”

The banquet features a large auction, which will include guided coastal duck hunts, fishing excursions, an Argentina dove hunt, various Ducks Unlimited prints, watches, fine china, outdoor gear and statues, along with the annual collector’s edition knife, decoy, shotgun, handgun and rifle of the year.

“We’ve been real successful,” said Jones. “It’s been 19 or 20 years running that we’ve been in the top 100 (chapters) in the nation. That’s a big award nationwide and we’re one of the top chapters in the country.”

In fact, Clinton-Sampson Ducks Unlimited has been ranked in the President’s top 100 chapters nationally every year since those rankings began nearly two decades ago. The list is reserved for the top 100 chapters that raise up to $100,000 in grassroots income for DU’s conservation mission.

In 2015, the Clinton chapter was fourth in the nation in fundraising and first in North Carolina, collecting $115,000 in net revenue for the 2014 fundraising year on the strength of a successful banquet and other efforts. The local banquet raises an average of $80,000 to $90,000 each year.

“That’s why we’re able to rank up there among the big towns like Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Gastonia,” said Jones. “People are just amazed that a town the size of Clinton can compete with these big cities. The little town of Clinton is pretty big in DU.”

The chapter also holds numerous different events to cast its net as wide as possible.

“We have multiple events, where a lot of chapters just do an annual banquet and that’s it,” said Jones. “We have the annual banquet, but then we have a sponsor’s banquet. We also have a summer raffle, a seafood feast — we have about seven different fundraisers.”

Funds will go towards conservation efforts to preserve habitat areas in the United States and other countries such as Canada and Mexico.

“Funds help preserve land and protect waterways, rather than having that land be cleared for a Walmart parking or something,” Jones said. “We’re trying to keep original land, breeding grounds and nesting areas that are out here not just for us, but for waterfowl and for any kind of wildlife. It’s not just about birds, it can be about any kind of species. Anyone that is used to the outdoors, it just hits home.”

Clean water and a preserved environment helps all forms of wildlife thrive.

“We’re trying to always make sure that we’ve got clean flowing water,” Jones attested.

There are projects across North Carolina and the rest of the continent that can benefit from those funds. For Jones and others in Sampson County, the goal is to make sure those funds return locally.

“We don’t keep anything on the local level,” Jones noted. “Everything is sent to the national headquarters and they dispense it. We try to keep 99.9 percent of funds we raise in North Carolina. If there are projects going on, we can earmark it, particularly if it’s a donation it can be earmarked for a specific area.”

Along with the fundraising efforts, there are other events such as Greenwing, packed with outdoor activities such as fishing and shooting for children up to age 17. That is not a money-maker, Jones said. It normally takes place in the fall, but Hurricane Matthew didn’t allow that to happen last year. He said they are planning to put on that event in late April or early May at Laurel Lake Campground, however an exact date hasn’t been set.

“That’s going to be taking the place of the one that was supposed to take place back in the fall,” he noted.

Jones said he expects a date for Greenwing to be announced soon.

Tickets for the March 25 banquet will be sold until the end of next week. Prices are based on individual, couple and sponsorship levels. A single ticket is $50, couple tickets are $80. The fee for a sponsorship table is $300 and $800 for a corporate table.

Tickets can be purchased at Atrium Florist & Gifts, 121 Fayetteville St., Clinton; Pizza Inn, 1103 Sunset Ave., Clinton; Matthews Cards & Gifts, 352 Northeast Blvd., Clinton; Crop Production Services, Inc., 345 Pugh Road, Clinton; the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center, 414 Warsaw Road, Clinton; and James Trading Company, 311 N. East St., Roseboro. Tickets are available through committee members.

For more information, contact Keith Jones at 910-590-9335.

By Chris Berendt

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

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