Just three months into their capital campaign, Our Town Foundation has raised the funds to meet its first goal in the Save Our Strand Campaign which began this past March. A new digital projector, screen and sound system were purchased and installed while the Strand Theater was closed from July 1 to July 10.
A total of $58,000 was raised for this first goal in the necessary improvements to the theater.
“I felt really good that the community had stepped forward realizing our needs and knowing that we had the support of the community behind us,” said Deena Kershner, Executive Director of the foundation.
Kershner credits the OTF board of directors members for stepping up and making large donations to the campaign.
“Several members of the board of directors remember the fun times they had at the theater and they want to have the opportunity for their families to experience the same,” said Kershner.
The first goal was met with the community and board of directors donating and a grant from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
Not only do those in Hamburg wish to see the theater become a central hub again, but so do those that grew up in the area and have since moved away. Kershner spoke of a woman who now lives in California, but grew up in Hamburg, who sent a donation with a letter during which the former resident spoke about remembering standing in line to watch “The Sword and the Stone” when it first came out and was actually turned away because the movie sold out.
“That gave me goose bumps when I read it,” said Kershner. “That’s neat. The outsiders that grew up in Hamburg, they want to see it continue.”
Though the foundation is glad to meet the first goal so quickly, there is still much to do as Kershner pointed out that this was the first of ten improvements that need to be done. The total amount to save the theater is $200,000. Next on the list is $5,000 for outside improvements. As each goal is met and the next begins, the funds start from zero. It was the foundation that decided to set the capital campaign up in increments rather than the total for all necessary improvements.
“Why don’t’ we do it in increments so we can say ‘We met this goal and now we have another goal and now our next goal is only $5,000,’” said Kershner on the decision.
OTF is already getting estimates for the outside work on the theater as they hope to raise the money by fall. After that the next goal with be repairs to the roof.
When asked if she thought the OTF could raise the money after the foundation first bought the theater in March 2013, Kershner replied, “I did. I felt confident that we could do it.”
The capital campaign is how the foundation is raising money for the Save Our Strand campaign, but there are also fundraisers. All the money raised from these projects go directly into the capital campaign account. Current fundraisers include Save Our Strand t-shirts available for purchase through Our Town Foundation, Spirit Nights at Logan’s Steakhouse which are held the last Wednesday of each month and Reading Fightin’ Phils tickets available for purchase through the Our Town Foundation using a special code. In June, two nights were held at Logan’s during which $625 was raised. The goal is for $500 to be raised each month at this event. Coming up on Oct. 19 will be a Gala Auction featuring movie memorabilia, autographed items, donations from businesses, artwork and more. OTF is already accepting item donations.
On July 8, a special showing for donors was held at the theater.
“For our donors as a ‘thank you,’” explained Kershner. “We felt that they should have the first opportunity to say ‘We were part of history.’ Fifty years down the road the next people will be writing about this happening in 2014.”
She continued, “I just feel very strongly that anybody that was willing to donate, they should have the first opportunity to see the improvements.”
The foundation was told by the company that installed the current improvements that Hamburg “should have bragging rights to having the top notch in Berks County right now” explained Kershner since other similar theaters last had the new screens and systems installed about five years ago and there have been improvements.
“I think OTF, we should be very proud of ourselves that we were able to save the theater and get the necessary equipment to keep it open,” she said.
Kershner believes that the foundation is going about the project the right way by taking its time and going step by step. Since buying the theater, the foundation has had to learn about the film industry in order to save the Strand.
This is an important project to OTF and the community for “lots of reasons. It provides evening entertainment, inexpensive family outings and a place where memories are made,” said Kershner.
For more information on the Save Our Strand capital campaign visit http://www.hamburgstrand.org/. For more on Hamburg’s Our Town Foundation visit http://hamburgpa.org/.