Funds raised to make Batavia Peace on Earth sign permanent

Members of the Batavia Parks Foundation and the community at large are celebrating the success of a local campaign to fund a new Peace on Earth sign for the famous Peace Bridge over the Fox River in Batavia.

A donation received Wednesday morning from the Dunham Foundation put the fundraising drive over the top.

The project was launched last spring with the hope of raising $50,000 in order to replace the seasonal wooden letters reading Peace on Earth that hang currently on the Batavia bicycle-pedestrian bridge with permanent metal letters featuring LED lighting.

Parks Foundation President Britta McKenna of Batavia spoke with The Beacon News on Wednesday and credited a story that ran in the paper on Dec. 9 with helping to bring the fund drive to a successful finish.

“We heard from the Dunham Fund and received a check from them this morning in the amount of $5,000 when we met for coffee,” McKenna said Wednesday. “People from the Dunham group said they had read the article about the bridge in The Beacon-News. We have been talking with president and CEO of the Dunham Foundation Lindsay Cochrane since last spring about the campaign. She was aware of it and we were kind of queueing up to put in a grant application the first of the year. I didn’t expect anything from them, but was notified their board members had read the article in the Beacon that said we were close to the goal.”

The wooden letters on Batavia's iconic Peace Bridge over the Fox River are set to be replaced with permanent metal letters and LED lighting.

Back on Dec. 9, the collection total stood at around $44,000 and thanks to the Dunham contribution, McKenna said the Parks Foundation was just $35 short of its $50,000 goal, which it then quickly met.

“Lindsay (Cochrane) was asked by her board about the goal after reading about it, and she gave them some background that she has been following the project,” McKennna said. “They (the board) all spoke up and … they made a gift of $5,000.

“It was very spontaneous and they wanted the money counted and to see us reach the goal before Christmas,” she said.

McKenna said the fundraising has “truly been a community campaign.”

“It took the whole community and it’s nice to wrap it up with a bow before the end of the year,” she said.

The project was spearheaded by local barber Craig Foltos, who first constructed the wooden letters for the Peace on Earth sign years ago.

On Wednesday, Foltos spoke from his barber shop – Foltos Tonsorial Parlor – and expressed his gratitude for so many local people pitching in on the project.

“I think it’s fantastic they are going to have metal letters that are going to last another 100 years and what a great community project that we could all pitch in and make it happen for everybody and future generations,” he said.

Foltos said the money, which was raised rather quickly following the launch of the campaign last May, reflects the nature of the people living in Batavia.

“I wasn’t surprised by the big last donation and you know they have good schools in this area and they have them because people pass referendums so they can pay more money to have good schools, and when people find out about and understand whatever it is you are doing and it touches an emotional part of them, they’ll come through,” Foltos said Wednesday. “I just sold a (fundraiser) sweatshirt just a minute ago to a lady from Aurora. She came down and bought a sweatshirt because she likes how the Peace Bridge makes her feel like. How can you not like that?”

McKennna said any extra funds raised for the project will be “put into a maintenance fund.”

“We don’t have the final numbers yet,” she said of the new Peace on Earth sign. “This is custom artwork that we’re going to send out, but because of the condition of the world, everything is slower and more expensive.”

McKenna said Aurora-based Kluber Architects + Engineers has donated the structure design to hang the letters on and also “after the first of the year, they will donate the electrical plan at no cost.”

“We are looking for members of the community to help chip in as we get it installed and in place and hoping to cut the ribbon on the International Day of Peace 2023 on Sept. 21 if all goes well,” she said.

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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