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Beverly Arts Center making progress toward reprieve; fundraiser set for Saturday

Chicago 19th Ward Ald. Matt O'SheSeptember announced Beverly Arts Center Challenge campaign raise $500000 from community residents save arts center

Chicago 19th Ward Ald. Matt O'Shea in September announced the Beverly Arts Center Challenge, a campaign to raise $500,000 from community residents to save the arts center from defaulting on its mortgage. | File photo

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Updated: March 13, 2014 6:45AM



It’s a favorite story of Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea, but one that he believes speaks volumes about the 19th Ward.

When a communitywide fundraising effort to pay off debt and keep the Beverly Arts Center open was announced a few months ago, offers began rolling in.

There were some from folks with deep pockets, businesses that made large donations. And then there was an envelope from a senior citizen.

“This little old lady sent us a $5 bill. She said that was all she could afford, but she thought it was important to continue to provide art education to children,” O’Shea said.

That’s an example, he said, of what the arts center means to the community — and an example of the residents’ caring nature.

That woman’s sacrifice is another reason why O’Shea is not surprised that about 1,000 donors have stepped forward to help pay down the debt in hopes of keeping the center open for many years to come.

Judging by the response so far, the arts center, at 2407 W. 111th St., will not be closing any time soon.

A deal was cut in September aimed at eliminating most of the center’s $4.45 million debt. Fifth Third Bank agreed to chip in $4 for every $1 donated up to $500,000 to cut $2.5 million in mortage debt. Supporters were given a year. It now looks like that deadline easily will be met.

Mike Stanton, BAC Challenge co-chairman, said the group “is making great progress on our goal to eliminate all $4.45 million of debt. “To date, we have raised $450,000 toward the $500,000 4-to-1 match, which, when reached, will eliminate $2.5 million of debt,” he said. “We also have raised over $500,000 toward eliminating the remaining $1.9 million so that we can be completely out of debt by September 2014.”

“I’m not surprised,” O’Shea said. “It was just convincing everyone we could get it done, and here we are fighting our way through this. We’ve really got some positive momentum here.”

The momentum continues Saturday night when the arts center hosts its 43rd annual auction. It’s usually to raise money for day-to-day operations, but there’s a twist this year, said Sal Campbell, who serves on the center’s auxiliary board. This year, all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the challenge. And at $50 per ticket, the potential is there to raise thousands more.

“It’s going to be great. It’s always a great party, and this year is extra special,” Campbell said. “It kind of has a double advantage for the challenge as well as raising money for the day-to-day operations of the center.”

There will be food, refreshments, live entertainment, a silent auction and a live auction conducted by Vinny Zaffrano, of Chicago’s Bridgeport community, she said. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the live auction starts at 8 p.m., she said.

Some of the live auction items include Blackhawks tickets, a private party for 50 at the center, a catamaran cruise on Lake Michigan, a White Sox luxury suite for 20 during a game and one year of movie date nights at the arts center.

“There also will be some surprises, but I can’t say what those are,” she said Tuesday.

She is impressed and “touched by the outpouring of the community,” she said. “I didn’t know we were so close to reaching the goal. ... I’m pretty psyched about it. The idea was we’d have a year to raise so much money, so I’d say we’ve done pretty well.”

Several corporate sponsors stepped up in a big way, she said. And so have residents.

“I think people will keep on going until we get it all paid off,” Campbell said. “I think it’s just one of those things. We’ve had several big donations. County Fair (Foods) gave us a huge donation. And I think it sort of ... how should I put it? It fed on itself. It snowballed. People saw other people (donating) and they wanted to get on board.

“Maybe people who were on the sideline before now want to get involved,” she said.

O’Shea credited “the grass-roots participation” for leading the way, also noting the “incredible generosity of some of our business leaders.”

“It’s been the entire community. We’ve had close to 1,000 different donors from the Beverly-Morgan Park-Mount Greenwood community,” O’Shea said.

The Beverly Arts Center has been “an institution in our community since 1968” and one that residents do not want to lose, O’Shea said.

“We built this new facility in 2002, and in 2012 we found out just how close we were to losing it,” he said. “As a community, we’ve rallied for the past 20 months. This challenge is now five months in the making and we have until September.”

Campbell said, “When this community puts its mind to it, things get done.”

For Saturday night’s auction, local merchants such as Barraco’s, Maple Tree Inn, Calabria Imports, Nicky’s Grill & Yogurt Oasis and Hardboiled Coffee Co. are donating food.

The theme is “Amplify The Arts,” and as the name suggests, some of the proceeds will be used to upgrade the sound equipment in the theater, which hosts more than 100 concerts, theater productions and other performances every year.

A local rock band, Cloud of Shame, is to perform. A tech raffle — tickets are $20 each, or six for $100 — will offer such prizes as an iPad mini, 46-inch flat-screen TV and a set of Beats by Dre wireless headphones. Winners need not be present to claim a prize.

For information on the auction or to buy tickets, call (773) 445-3838, Ext. 200, or visit www.beverlyartcenter.org.



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