EDWARDSVILLE — Shawnta' Ray got a very big anniversary present from her hometown -- more than $80,000.
Ray, owner of the now-famous Once Upon a Toy store in Edwardsville, was at the Benld Library with her husband overseeing a game night event when her phone started "blowing up."
People were calling and texting to tell her that the fundraiser on the CrowdTilt web site to save her store had topped the $75,000 needed to appease the bank that was threatening to call her loan.
It also happened to be her 10-year anniversary with her husband, Rick Harmon.
The fundraiser had actually been set at $76,875 to cover the site's fees. with donations still coming, the total was at more than $82,000.
"I can't say how unbelievably thankful we are," Ray said.
Once word spread that First Mid-Illinois Bank had lost confidence in the store and was calling in its loan, residents and other small businesses went into action to raise money for Once Upon a Toy. The bank had agreed not to call the loan if they could raise $75,000 by the end of the week. The site was launched overnight and went viral on Tuesday; by Thursday night, it "tipped" at more than $75,000.
Ray said the huge response was more about a group of people who worked together to make something happen "out of love," not just about a small business being given a second chance.
On Facebook, where the effort really got rolling, Ray told her supporters that she wished the entire country could see what they accomplished. She said she realizes the opportunity she was given and will not take it for granted.
"We promise you a happy place to come on rainy days," she wrote. "We promise you'll feel you are appreciated as customers every time you are in our store. We promise to walk cautiously with this gift of a chance, and to do our best not to let you down."
It's not all over; Ray said she and her lawyer are continuing negotiations with the bank, though she said the bank is not backing off on its part of the deal. She said she is still "floored" that the bank would call in their loan, even though she had not missed a payment and it was guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.
Bank representatives have not been available for comment.
"Let us fail on our own if you think we're going to fail," she said.
But she remains grateful to the town, and to the floods of customers coming into the shop Friday, the first day it has been open since the news broke earlier this week. Huge crowds poured into the store throughout the afternoon.
"I feel like everyone coming through the door today is a friend," Ray said.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.