Heritage Center’s Remarkable Campaign Forges the Comeback Trail

Faced with a daunting price tag north of $300,000 over the next several years, board members and administrators at the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center are expressing profound thanks this week to a generous community that helped them to successfully achieve a crowdfunding goal in barely a month's time to meet the first hurdle in their race back to normalcy following a mid-winter catastrophe that has shut the place down since late last year.

The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center team says that through the online crowdfunding site and thanks to face-to-face outreach, the center managed to raise $53,000 in just one month, successfully meeting the 1:1 match required in order to implement a $50,000 Grant from the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs.

That Grant for Capital Improvements was awarded after a committee of experts advised crucial facility updates to the center. Originally planned for later this year, fundraising for the match was accelerated due to a major flood on December 11th. The damage has closed the Museum to visitors for more than 3 months for restoration and repairs, prompting an urgency to meet the match and begin making other needed capital improvements to the building.

More than 160 individuals, businesses, and organizations donated to the campaign, titled “Keeping Up the Cupola” in reference to the Museum’s iconic tower on Main Street. Online donations on a crowdfunding website brought in $33,205, with the remainder of support received by the Heritage team in person by cash or check. With the donations and grant funding now in place, new HVAC equipment will be installed this spring to service about half of the building. The Museum also plans to install humidity sensors equipped with mobile warning mechanisms and 100-percent energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the facility. Those investments will total more than $100,000.

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Altogether, the Board of Directors expects the total costs of essential maintenance and equipment replacement to reach $300,000 over the next few years. Recent estimates from the Facilities Committee—a team of construction experts, staff, and Board members—have firmly established a need for total replacement of the HVAC and humidity-control systems as well as exterior upkeep. The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center was built to last using high-quality materials and fine architectural details. However, since the mid-1990s when the HVAC equipment was purchased, those systems have become aged and outdated compared to technology now available. New investments to the exterior and interior of the building are vital to its future, following 20 years of exposure and heavy use.

The Center's Executive Director Elizabeth Andrews says: “Our classical cupola tower is visible across St. Joseph, a symbol for 20 years now of how this facility preserves history and enriches community culture. Some locals may remember that the cupola was once beautifully illuminated at night, until the rooftop lighting fixtures went bad several years ago. It remains unlit because of the crucial major expenses we still face to keep our facility running and historic collections preserved. Someday soon, after we’ve achieved all those repairs and we’re able to relight the cupola, its graceful shining glory will represent the stability and security of our building as the keeper of invaluable local heritage.”

Becky Meier is President of the Heritage Board. She adds: “The Board of Directors is working on strategies to increase operating income and save up for necessary capital improvements. We will seek out more grant funding and other new sources of support. The generosity of our membership and community in the recent campaign is incredible inspiration that we can tackle what is still ahead.”

The December 2017 flood prompted the Heritage Museum to launch its fundraising campaign at an unusual time, just days before Christmas. Despite that challenge, the community responded to the month-long campaign with incredible support and generous donations. The Board and staff of the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center are deeply thankful to the 160 donors whose gifts helped reach the $50,000 campaign goal, and to all the donors still continuing to give toward ongoing capital maintenance of the building.

Following the December flood damage, the Board hired the facility’s original builders at Pearson Construction to handle the reconstruction process. The rebuilding of walls, ceilings, and other fixtures is now well underway, as shown in the balcony reconstruction photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market, and the organization has begun to plan for re-opening.

The Center will open for its first public event the evening of Thursday, March 22, hosting LEGO Carnivale in partnership with the St. Joseph Library. Normal open hours for the Museum are expected to resume after April 1st. Upon re-opening, a new feature exhibit will debut in the main gallery called Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective. HMCC invites the community to Save the Dates for these exciting upcoming events at the Museum:

  • Thursday, March 22 – LEGO Carnivale
  • Tuesday, April 3 – Normal Open Hours Resume:

Tues-Sat, 10am-4pm and Thursdays 10am-8pm (Free Admission)

  • Thursday, May 17 – Annual Membership Meeting & Dinner

The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is now scheduling additional 2018 events, public programs, and tours, to be announced in the coming months.