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Downtown Joplin Alliance seeks alternative sources of funding for Third Thursday events next year

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Tonight marks the final Third Thursday of the season in downtown Joplin.

Organizers say they are seeking alternative sources of funding to keep the event growing next year.

For many business owners in downtown Joplin, Third Thursday not only draws in more customers the night of the event, but also helps bring awareness to what Main Street has to offer.

Fran Spencer has owned Cooper's 66 Eatery and Drinkery on Main Street for the past two and a half years.

Spencer says Third Thursday nights result in a 40 to 100 percent revenue increase, which helps sustain her business through the rest of the year.

"Definitely the added income from Third Thursday helps us to get through the winter," Spencer said.

While business revenue is up, the funding for the event itself is on a downward trend.

In 2011, the Joplin City Council determined the need to limit funding for all non-profits, due to a higher number of requests.

"Four years ago the City of Joplin gave us a $20,000 grant, decreasing at $4,000 per year over 5 years," said Trisha Patton, Downtown Joplin Alliance.

While the amount of funding for Third Thursday has been decreasing over the years, Downtown Joplin Alliance members say they are ending the year debt free and expect to receive $4,000 in funding from the City of Joplin for next year.

"We expect that Third Thursday will continue to grow, however, we need to consistently raise funds and we need everybody's help to do that," Patton said.

Patton resigned from her position with the Downtown Joplin Alliance this week, but says she is confident new leadership will continue efforts to keep Third Thursday growing and free for the public.

"If everybody that came to Third Thursday donated $2, the entire year of Downtown Joplin Alliance's overhead would be taken care of," Patton said.

As for Spencer, she says she is grateful for all that Third Thursday has done for her business and is hopeful the event will continue to grow, many years into the future.

"I just think it's so important for families and for the businesses," Spencer said. "It's something that needs to continue."

Organizers say in the past seven seasons of Third Thursday, vacancy rates downtown have dramatically dropped.

Before the event began, the vacancy rate on Main Street between 1st Street and 7th Street was above 50 percent.

It is now down to 25 percent.
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