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There’s a madness sweeping through the borough of Carlisle this month, but unlike college basketball’s annual tournament, this doesn’t require a bracket.

March marks the kick-off for the Partnership for Better Health’s first-ever 2016 Match Madness Campaign, where local nonprofit organizations will be participating in a new $50,000 matching gift campaign. The 2016 Match Madness Campaign aims to support area nonprofits in raising core operating and program funds.

“So we actually have 16 nonprofit organizations that have all been working with Partnership for Better Health to champion their donors to give more and advance their mission,” said Becca Raley, executive director of Partnership for Better Health.

The 16 participating organizations are The Boys and Girls Club of Chambersburg and Shippensburg, Camp Koala, Carlisle Arts Learning Center, Carlisle CARES, Contact Helpline, Cumberland County Historical Society, Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council, Historic Carlisle Inc., Hope Station, The Kidney Foundation of Central PA, The LEAF Project, Mental Wellness Awareness Association, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, Project SHARE, Salvation Army of Carlisle and Safe Harbour.

Throughout this month, donations to participating organizations will be eligible to receive a portion of the partnership’s $50,000 stretch pool, which will go directly to the organizations, as designated by individual contributors.

At the conclusion of the campaign, Partnership for Better Health will distribute the stretch pool proportionately, based on the total funds raised by each organization, according to Raley.

“We were formed in 2001 from the sale of old Carlisle Hospital, and proceeds from that sale created a community foundation, and every year we give about $2 million in grants to the region, and the $50,000 stretch pool is a part of that grant making effort,” Raley said. “For us, this is really different, typically when we make grants to local nonprofits we require a grant application, interim report, final report; for the first time we’re really making funds available no strings attached and were doing that because we know how hard it is for our community programs to raise funds for core operating support.”

A kick-off celebration was held Monday evening at the Partnership for Better Health’s headquarters on Wilson Street, where the participating organizations announced their plans for the month and discussed ideas with each other over food and drinks.

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“Really what we wanted to do was invite all of our partners here who are participating in the program, have them come and meet each other and hear about each other’s projects,” said Ann Myers, chief gift planning officer, who manages the campaign. “These folks tonight are every organization who has a budget of $5 million or less and received a grant from us over the past 2 years.”

One of those organizations was a community newcomer of sorts: the LEAF Project.

LEAF is an acronym for Leadership Education and Farming, and is a youth employment program that Program Director Maggie Stonecash called “50 percent farm work, 50 percent character development.”

“We take kids between the ages of 14 through 18 to work alongside farmers and chefs in our region,” Stonecash said. “They grow produce, learn how to cook that produce and then take their skills and knowledge with culinary nutrition out into the community and run workshops.”

Their idea for Match it Madness is to have their students host dinner parties at the homes of their supporters in the vein of a kitchen takeover.

Stonecash said the youth will prepare the meals using locally farmed food, host the party and engage with donors and speak about the program.

“The idea is they would make a contribution after the meal for our organization,” she said.

Match it Madness will continue through the month, ending on the March 31, but for the 16 participating organizations, the madness starts today.

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Tyler Miles is a news reporter for The Sentinel covering Carlisle and the health section. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMiles or email him at tmiles@cumberlink.com.

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