Basket raffle at Case-Nic benefits agency offering literary services

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 11 July 2024 at 7:36 am

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Carolyn Wagner, secretary of the board of Orleans County Accredited Learning Services, stands in front of the window of Case-Nic Cookies, where a basket raffle is taking place all month to benefit the agency.

MEDINA – A basket raffle in the window of Case-Nic Cookies this month will benefit an agency dedicated to providing free literacy services in Orleans County.

Founded in 2006 as Orleans County Adult Learning Services (or OCALS), the agency now known as Orleans County Accredited Learning Services is helping children and adults throughout the county. With a paid staff of two part-time employees and a volunteer board of directors, conducting fundraising events would hardly be possible, so when United Way of Orleans County insisted they do more fundraising to be eligible for funding, they had to think outside the box.

Carolyn Wagner, secretary of OCALS’s board, knew about Mary Lou Tuohey making the windows of her store, Case-Nic Cookies, available to non-profits for basket raffles. For the last two years, Wagner almost single-handedly, has put together a basket raffle which netted OCALS much needed, although not astronomical, funds.

“We do pretty well here for a small community,” she said.

This month, Wagner has repeated her efforts and filled Case-Nic’s window with a variety of baskets geared to appeal to all ages, men, women and children.

Forty-nine baskets include gift cards to a variety of stores and restaurants, lottery tickets, jewelry and purses, books and toys for children, household items and more.

Tuohey had come up with a system so shoppers could enter the drawings even when the store is closed. She makes up a list with the number of all the baskets. Each sheet has the numbers of a sheet of 26 raffle tickets. The list, a pen and ticket stub are placed in a plastic bag with an envelope and put in a bucket outside the door of her store. At any time of the day, a customer can open the bucket, take out a packet, enter the number of tickets he wants placed in the baskets of his choice, put $10 in the envelope, seal it and drop it through the mail slot in the door.

When the store opens the next morning, the organizations’ volunteers open the envelopes and place the requested number of tickets into the designated baskets.

Tickets can be purchased through July 30. Winners will be drawn on July 31 and notified to come and pick up their prize.

Wagner said she canvasses all the local businesses asking for donations, and while she understands the merchants get inundated with requests, she is grateful for the response she receives.

She is always looking for bargains throughout the year and buys things on sale, saving them to create a basket.

“I always send a thank you to everyone who donates a basket,” she said.

The other fundraising effort by OCALS is a book sale at Medina’s annual community yard sale.

OCALS has come a long way since its founding by Rose Ruck, then a resident of Clarendon, who realized the need for an active literacy group in the county. For the first years, the organization operated with all volunteers and annual donations from Rose and Don’s daughters.

OCALS is accredited by ProLiteracy and funded by United Way of Orleans County.

They have expanded to provide free confidential tutoring services to adults, children and families who are residents of Orleans County and want to improve their reading, writing and English skills. They also provide one-on-one training for the county’s digital literacy initiative, and have worked with school children struggling with literacy.

As part of their mission to promote their services and let the community know what they offer, OCALS has a presence at Medina’s Canal Farmer’s Market, the 4-H Fair and Night Out in Medina.

Crucial to their program are tutors, and they are always looking for anyone interested in volunteering. OCALS will provide the necessary training.

New board members are also welcome. Anyone interested in joining OCALS in any capacity can contact them at; on Facebook at or by calling (585) 590-1202.